By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Over the course of two days in Tucker County, the Honorable Judge James Courrier presided over nearly two dozen criminal cases in addition to numerous civil matters. Those cases included those of Jason and Hannah Adkins, Tracey Elza, and Dustin Moran.
On Tuesday he began his hearings with Jason Adkins on the issue of failure to report to jail when ordered. His defense argued the charge should be dismissed due to confusion in the order. Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora stated there may be a typographical error in the sentencing order; however, the conviction order was clear and believes there should have been no issue. Courrier decided for the time to leave it as charged.
Hannah Adkins appeared next on violations of her bond. Courrier decided to leave H. Adkins on bond, however she is now on home incarceration with GPS monitoring.
David Phillips, charged with two counts of sexual assault in the second degree and one count of soliciting a minor, appeared to wave a suppression hearing and his statement will be admissible to court. His defense did ask for a redaction of the statement, which allows him to omit certain sections. That motion was not ruled on at this time. His attorney also made a motion to dismiss count three of the indictment because the victim was seventeen at the time and the statute says though a minor, once of age sixteen an individual is capable of agreeing to sex. Defense also argued counts one and two of sexual assault should be combined into one count for the reason it was in a single incident. Courrier has yet to rule on this motion as well.
Moving onto Friday at the Circuit Court, Katie Phillips with Defense Attorney Davis entered with a plea agreement. The agreement dropped the third offense of shoplifting (a felony with up to six months in jail) to a second offense, a misdemeanor charge with one year probation and participation of the Community Corrections Program. Phillips owes restitution of around $50 to the Parsons Dollar General and is responsible for court costs. Davis requested the amount of time on the Community Corrections Program be reduced to six months due to no drivers license, no job, with two children making this “burdensome.” LaMora argued that most shoplifting charges happen due to being under the influence and requests drug screens while on the program. Courrier agreed to leave Phillips on the program and leaving the discretion to Community Corrections as to when she can be discharged from their requirements.
Defense Attorney Fuelhart entered with his defendant, Tonya Armstrong. This hearing was a suppression hearing with attempt to remove a statement from entering a potential trial. Sergeant Siler of the WV State Police was present to provide testimony to the occurrence of August 29, 2018. Siler received a call for a domestic disturbance at a residence in the Dry Fork area where he arrested Armstrong’s son, William Armstrong. According to Siler, once he placed W. Armstrong in the car, he returned to speak with his girlfriend on the porch when T. Armstrong came from an alleyway asking why her son was being arrested. Siler responded his reasoning was he assaulted his girlfriend, to which T. Armstrong allegedly said it was her that hit the victim, not her son. LaMora asked how Siler responded, and he said, “I arrested her, too.” Fuelhart had the opportunity to cross examine Siler and he asked if at any point T. Armstrong claimed self defense, and he responded “I’d have to look at the statement.” LaMora argued he believes T. Armstrong made this “excited utterance” against herself and should be admissible to court, especially since she initiated to conversation with Siler to begin with. Siler added this was not his first call to this residence. Courrier ruled it as admissible as a noncustodial statement.
Her son, William Armstrong, appeared next with his representative, Attorney Bush. According to LaMora, the victim in this case has claimed additional contact from the defendant and a search warrant to confirm is being conducted. Courrier reiterated the meaning of no contact before dismissing to the next status hearing.
Next on the docket was Tracey Elza alongside her representative Fuelhart. LaMora made a motion as part of the defendants bond to succumb to random drug testing through Community Corrections. Fuelhart staged concern for his client regarding costs associated with the drug screenings, and was informed they are usually $10 each unless additional means are necessary. Fuelhart agreed stating that Elza is determined to prove she is clean. The main cause for the hearing was for a motion of suppression; however the officer wasn’t available at this hearing.
Ronald James, not present though represented by Attorney Bush, was scheduled for a status hearing and is hopeful for a pre-trial resolution. LaMora agreed, feeling close to an agreement in the matter.
Arriving by the assistance of the Department of Correction was Paul Shaffer and Dustin Moran. Shaffer and his attorney Morris was scheduled to enter a plea agreement of guilty on one count of uttering, a felony, for the second charge to be dropped. Sentence is a one to ten year timeframe in a penitentiary, which can be dated back when he became incarcerated in March of 2018. Shaffer is currently indicted on another charge, so his sentence will run concurrent. Once released, he is required to pay restitution of $3,945.77 to Grimes Enterprise and $3,345.77 to Ernest Myers.
The last criminal hearing of the day was that of Dustin Moran. LaMora informed he is still awaiting DNA evidence from the crime lab, which he is submitting an expedition letter for the results. Defense Attorney Brent Easton requested a bond modification and home confinement. LaMora argued, “Mr. Moran is a flight risk in our opinion.” His evidence was leaving the scene of an accident that led to the discovery of $47,000 and the incident of running from police in Randolph County when $30,000 was tossed from the car during the chase. During LaMora’s request for bond to remain, Moran was continuously shaking his head in apparent disagreement with the prosecutor’s comments. Courrier decided the bond would remain the same and collaboration between Easton, LaMora, and Moran’s attorney in his Randolph County indictment needs to take place prior to the next status hearing.
This concluded the criminal hearings for Judge Courrier in Tucker County. Moran is scheduled to return on April 18 while T. and W. Armstrong, Elza and James on May 8.