Judge Mark A. Karl sentenced two defendants and released another during hearings conducted in Wetzel County Circuit Court on March 16. Others will return later this term to continue matters in their cases.
Jonathan Lee Johnson, 20, of 100 Bridge Street, Lot 14 South, New Martinsville, pleaded guilty to his one count of malicious assault during his hearing on Friday. It was recommended Johnson be sentenced as a youthful offender and serve six months to two years at the Anthony Center. Upon successful completion of the center's program he will be placed on two years supervised probation. However, should he not complete the program, Johnson's original sentence of two to 10 years in the West Virginia State Penitentiary for Men could be imposed, with credit for 68 days served. Following his hearing Johnson was remanded to the Northern Regional Jail where he will remain until the Anthony Center is ready for him. In the meantime a pre-sentence report will be conducted as required by the center and a return date to address such matters is set for April 9 at 1:30 p.m.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Johnson will pay restitution to the victim in the case for medical expenses and also apologize in open court for his actions, which he did at the close of his hearing on Friday. He said he was sorry for the injuries he caused the victim. When asked what made him guilty of the offense, Johnson said he kicked and punched the victim several times after an informal football game near New Martinsville School on Jan. 8 over an argument they had over the football score.
Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught shared with the court the evidence in the case, that being that a fight ensued between Johnson and the victim and was captured on video via someone's cell phone. As far as the state can tell, the fight wasn't planned. Soon after the incident the video was uploaded to YouTube where a citizen saw the clip and notified the New Martinsville Police Department.
While the injuries sustained by the victim were fortunately not as severe as in typical malicious assaults, Haught said he could certainly argue that the act was malicious. "Clearly it was stupid, and arguably it was malicious," he said of the nature of the incident.
However, with that said, Haught went on to say that given Johnson's age and the fact he holds no prior criminal record, he agreed it was in the defendant's best interest to receive rehab and training at the center.
Notably, Defense Attorney Jeremiah Gardner shared with the court that Johnson was offered other agreements which allowed him to plead to a lesser included offense. However, Johnson chose the above outlined agreement to ensure he would go to the Anthony Center and have the chance to change his behavior through the center's program.
Judge Karl noted he had seen several young defendants in recent months enter, but not complete, the program at the Anthony Center. Giving warning to Johnson, the judge said, "Be compliant or you will be going to the penitentiary."
Steven L. Leek, 45, of RD 1, Box 205, New Martinsville, pleaded guilty to counts two and three of his three-count indictment, those being felony failure to register as a sex offender for life and misdemeanor first offense carrying a concealed deadly weapon. For these offenses Leek was sentenced concurrently to the state men's penitentiary for a period of one to five years for count two and confinement in the NRJ for one year with a fine of $100 for count three, with credit for 131 days served. Furthermore, as Leek holds a prior felony conviction, the state filed a recidivist motion to double the minimum sentence. It was granted and in total, Leek will serve two to five years in prison. Leek will also pay all court costs and, pursuant to the plea agreement, the state dismissed count one of his indictment. Leek was remanded to the Division of Corrections side of the NRJ to begin serving his sentence.
During the hearing Haught described the events leading to Leek's charges. On or about Nov. 7 at the local healthcare center Leek was found creating a disturbance. Police were called to the scene where a switchblade knife was allegedly found in his pocket. Upon further investigation police found out Leek was a registered sex offender and had failed to register in the month of his birth as required.
Leek addressed the court, apologizing for not registering, noting it was the first time in eight years that he had failed to do so. He stated he simply forgot to do it.
On Feb. 7 Leek entered pleas of innocence to his three-count indictment for various offenses.
Count one, felony failure to update sex offender registry information between May 6 and Nov. 7, 2011, in Wetzel County, was dismissed.
Meanwhile, Kevin Kennedy, 23, of 5619 Room 16, Ischua, N.Y., was released on a Rule 35 sentence modification motion during his hearing on Friday. Pursuant to the plea agreement, after serving nine successful months in prison the judge released Kennedy and placed him on two years supervised probation. However, it was also learned there is a detainer from New York and as such Kennedy signed the waiver of extradition. While he is released on his Wetzel County charges, Kennedy remains in the NRJ to await extradition to New York to answer his charges.
On Dec. 21, 2011, Kennedy pleaded guilty to unlawful assault, a lesser included offense to count two of his indictment, and was sentenced to the West Virginia Penitentiary for Men for a period of one to five years with credit for 189 days served. In addition to court costs, he was ordered to pay medical costs to the victim and have no contact with that victim. The state dismissed count one of his indictment.
On or about June 13 in Wetzel County Kennedy allegedly committed the felony offense of conspiracy to commit malicious assault (count one) and committed the felony offense of malicious assault (count two) in that he allegedly maliciously, unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly caused bodily injury to a man with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill the said victim by striking him and kicking him.
According to Haught, Kennedy went to Wal-Mart in New Martinsville on the date and time set forth in the indictment to meet the victim regarding a dispute involving their families. Altercation ensued wherein the defendant beat the victim with his fists, then kicked him when the victim fell to the ground. The victim suffered a fractured collar bone, bruises, and contusions.
In other matters, Brandon Robert Harvey, 25, of 6326 Lee Creek Road, Belleville, W.Va., appeared in circuit court alongside his retained counsel, George Cosenza, who shared with the court that he and the state are still in negotiations as to a plea agreement. "We are close, but not there," Cosenza said. With that, the judge set a return date for March 30 at 10 a.m. Harvey was remanded to the NRJ.
On Sept. 14, 2011, Harvey entered a plea of innocence to his indictments of kidnapping and two counts of domestic battery.
According to the true bills handed down by grand jurors during their September 2011 grand jury session, count one details that between Aug. 19 and Aug. 20, 2011, in Wetzel County, Harvey allegedly committed the felony offense of kidnapping.
Counts two and three of the indictment state that between the same dates as above, Harvey allegedly committed the misdemeanor offense of domestic battery with the same female, his ex-girlfriend, by shoving her to the ground and striking her with his hands in New Martinsville.
Benjamin Dale Francis, 32, of 1014 Third Street, New Martinsville, appeared in court wherein Haught noted he needed to tender tapes to the defense which have been in the possession of New Martinsville Police Detective Donnie Harris, who has been away for several weeks for trainings. Francis was remanded to the NRJ and will return March 30 at 10 a.m.
On Feb. 22 Francis entered innocent pleas to each of his charges of conspiracy to deliver controlled substances as well as his additional charge of attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer.
Co-defendants Jeffery Allen Dawson, 26, of Route 1, Box 16, Folsom, and Cynthia R. Smith, 23, of 618 North Fourth Avenue, Paden City, each pleaded innocent to their charges on Feb. 24 and Feb. 10, respectively.
The three were each handed a six-count indictment charging them with the repeated offense of conspiracy said to have occurred on or about Dec. 9 in New Martinsville.
The trio is charged with feloniously conspiring amongst each other to deliver: Hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance; Marijuana, a Schedule II controlled substance; Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance ; Adderall, a Schedule II controlled substance ; Alprazolam, a Schedule II controlled substance; and Suboxone, a Schedule II controlled substance.
Additionally, Dawson is charged with the offense of second degree robbery for allegedly removing money forcefully from Ciara Beisel on or about Dec. 30 in New Martinsville.
Furthermore, Francis is charged with the offense of attempt to disarm a law enforcement officer for attempting to disarm Patrolman Don Larsen, acting in his official capacity as a patrolman for the New Martinsville Police Department, by grabbing Patrolman Larsen's weapon and attempting to pull it from its holster on or about Dec. 9 in New Martinsville.
After a period of absence, Kenneth Evan Powell Jr., 47, of 315 South Third Avenue, Paden City, appeared before Judge Karl for his hearing. The state noted a suppression hearing date was needed in the case and as such the judge set the matter for April 9 at 1:30 p.m. Powell's bond continues.
On Feb. 18, 2011, Powell pleaded innocent to his one-count indictment for the felony offense of delivery of a controlled substance (marijuana) within 1,000 feet of a school.
As detailed in his indictment, on or about Oct. 21, 2010, in Wetzel County Powell allegedly, being 18 years of age or older, delivered marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance, within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising Paden City High School.
Lastly, Alexander C. King, 26, of 746 Hickman Rd., Sistersville, appeared in circuit court as a fugitive from justice. He is wanted in Monroe County, Ohio, for fleeing the state. He is facing charges of possession of heroin, use/possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of drug use instrument, failure to comply, and tampering with evidence. King chose to sign the waiver of extradition and was remanded to the NRJ to await extradition to Ohio to answer his charges.