By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Honorable Judge James Courrier, Jr. presided over Tucker County Circuit Court recentlynas a make up from a previously missed day of hearings. His morning began with what was supposed to be a pretrial hearing of Jason Brickles, present with his Defense Attorney Mr. Yoho. Brickles was scheduled for a trial next week on his domestic battery charges, however there is a scheduling conflict with two witnesses, one of which being the officer. Due to these issues, Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora requested a continuance of the trial. “We don’t oppose the continuance,” stated Yoho. Due to the nature of this case, a bench trial was requested instead of a jury trial, which places the responsibility of charging falling to Judge Courrier. Judge Courrier ensured everyone was in favor of the bench trial knowing he will be the individual making the decisions. Brickles agreed to the bench trial which is now set for March 4 at 9:30 a.m.
James Ferguson entered escorted by Sheriff B.K. Wilfong, with Defense Attorney Mr. Prentice. The two parties discussed a plea agreement, though the hearing was scheduled as a suppression hearing. The defense wants to work with the prosecution to come to an agreement to prevent a trial. “There’s been serious negotiation on this case, but we’re not there yet,” said LaMora. He expressed his belief that a resolution can be agreed upon with more time. Ferguson has been charged with several felonies, including grand larceny, fleeing from an officer, burglary, receiving/transferring stolen property, conspiracy, and entering of a building other than a dwelling. The two councils will continue negotiations before the next hearing scheduled for February 13 at 1:30 p.m.
Yoho returned with client, Steven Moore on his charges of embezzlement and fraudulent schemes. A representative from the auditor’s office was also present alongside the prosecution. Yoho has received more discoveries and believes he will need access to the accounting books from the Solid Waste Authority, which should be located at the landfill and are public knowledge. Yoho also made motions the day prior that LaMora needed more time to review; therefore, a continuation date was set to return at 2:15 p.m. on February 13.
Charles McCrum, charged with 20 counts relating to sexual abuse and assault, entered with his council, Mr. Fuelhart. A plea offer has been extended by LaMora, however Fuelhart requested more time to review given the circumstances of a potential life sentence for his client. Judge Courier complied, requesting them to return regarding this matter on February 13 at 11:30 a.m.
A plea agreement was the topic of the hearing pertaining to Tracey Elza, charged with three counts of uttering and three counts of prescription fraud. The potential sentence for each prescription fraud charge is a one to four year sentence, with each count of uttering holding a one to ten year potential sentence. The prosecution is seeking a two to fourteen year sentence be served. Defense Attorney Fuelhart requested a presentencing investigation be conducted by the probation office, which can take several weeks. Judge Courrier has the right to decide the penalty Elza will be served with, which could be served consecutively and/or concurrently pending judgement. This will be Elza’s first felony charges, which Judge Courrier explained prevents her from owning any firearms, losing the right to vote or hold a public office, and may have a negative impact on future job opportunities. Judge Courrier explained the trial process if Elza chose not to accept the plea agreement as well to ensure she was properly informed of all options before making her plea. LaMora recapped the charges stating that in the summer of 2018, Elza used the prescription pad of Dr. Susan Schmiddt to forge prescriptions for both oxycodone and hydrocondone, one of which was filled at Community Care in Parsons and two at the former Rite Aid, also in Parsons. “I take full responsibility,” proclaimed Elza. Judge Courrier accepted the plea agreement and requested Probation Officer “Butch” DiBacco to compile a presentencing investigation to be presented at a March 12 sentencing hearing at 1:15 p.m.
The final criminal hearing of the day was that of Lester Mook with his Defense Attorney Pat Nichols. Judge Courrier reviewed briefs presented by both councils and the transcript from the Grand Jury prior to the hearing. Nichols argued several inconsistencies within paperwork filed by the officers as well as in the search warrants relating to the alleged stolen properties being discovered. He also noted the searches could have been performed illegally and questions if he has all of the documents needed. “So basically I’ve got two issues with this,” he told Judge Courrier. LaMora responded stating he thought there were multiple search warrants for both locations but will research that and provide those to Nichols if additional documents are discovered. He also claims the issue regarding the officer’s paperwork was merely a typographical error due to multiple officers working the same cases. He claims these officers were acting on good faith on a valid issued search warrant. Judge Courrier wants to request the presence of both officers, City of Parsons Chief of Police J.E. Kopec (formerly of the WVSP), and Sergeant C.D. Siler. Along with their testimony, Judge Courrier wants to ensure all search warrants are present and to ensure how the vehicle identification numbers were retrieved. This hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 4 at 1:15 p.m.