A 29-year-old Tennessee Colony man who lied about his military service has been sentenced to eight years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice following his punishment trial earlier this week.

Prior to this week’s punishment trial, Jason Lynn Nichols, 29, of Tennessee Colony had pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated perjury.

Aggravated perjury is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

On Aug. 4, 2009, authorities have said Nichols lied during a child custody hearing in Anderson County court-at-law when testifying about his military background.

During that hearing, Nichols testified he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and been awarded the Service Medal, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, according to Elizabeth Watkins, assistant district attorney for Anderson County, who represented the state during the trial.

Nichols further testified he returned to the U.S. from his overseas service in 2005, according to Watkins.

Military records, however, indicated Nichols was admitted into the U.S. Army in April 2000 and discharged in July 2000 after just three months of service for “conduct” and “excessive absences,” Watkins told the Herald-Press.

A back injury further diluted his service, with the state alleging that Nichols only actually had seven days of active duty.

In her closing argument, Watkins asked 349th State District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher to assess Nichols the maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The defendant’s attorney, Colin McFall, meanwhile, requested community supervision for his client.

Since he had no previous felony convictions, Nichols was eligible for probation in the case.

“Obviously, they had requested community supervision, but the court looked at, not just this offense but other bad acts by the defendant,” Watkins told the Herald-Press.

During the punishment trial, the state introduced evidence showing that four protective orders had been issued against Nichols since 2005, with the most recent one obtained by his biological father this past December.

The state also produced evidence that Nichols had seven prior misdemeanor convictions, including assault-family violence.

A representative of the Anderson County Adult Community Supervision Department also testified that Nichols had not met bond terms set by the court by failing to report and leaving the county without the judge’s permission.

Nichols and others testifying on his behalf during this week’s trial had asked for leniency, saying he had made changes in his life over the past six months.

The state argued otherwise.

“Under the microscope for his behavior,” Watkins said, “he still didn’t do what the court asked him to do.”

Watkins referred to Nichols as “a straightup con man,” saying he had insulted real military heroes by weaving a fabric of consistent lies.

The assistant district attorney said her father served in the U.S. Marines, while her grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War.

“Real men of honor don’t brag about it,” Watkins told the Herald-Press following the court’s assessment of punishment. “They do their duty and they honor their country by being men of honor. This guy is no man of honor...I was happy that finally somebody else saw through what this guy was doing.”

Following the pronouncement of his sentence, Nichols filed notice of intent to appeal the verdict, most likely to the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler.

“The state’s confident that this judgment will be upheld and he’ll serve prison time,” Watkins said.

Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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