By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Honorable Judge James Courrier presided over the Tucker County Circuit Court, on Feb. 11, with just one criminal case on his docket. Emily Heckler appeared with her counsel, Brent Easton and Jeremy Cooper, regarding a first degree murder charge. A Certified expert from SAAR Psychological, Beverly Branson, was present to testify regarding her meeting with Heckler. She agreed with formerly questioned Dr. Cody that Heckler was criminally responsible, did not have diminished capacity, and was competent to wave her Miranda Rights. The additional defense expert was unable to attend; therefore, the court will hold opinion until all experts present their findings.
The Honorable Judge Lynn Nelson took the bench on February 12 to accept a plea agreement from Steven Swiger. Swiger pled guilty to one count of fleeing from an officer with reckless indifference, a felony; and one count of driving on a revoked license for DUI first offense, a misdemeanor. Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora recommended not less than one or more than five years penalty. The defense counsel requested a presentencing investigation be done by the Probation Office prior to sentencing, which Judge Nelson granted. Once the PSI is complete, Swiger will return for sentencing.
Jason White, incarcerated for first degree murder, was scheduled for a trial that needed to be continued due to the inability to attend by one of the state’s indispensible witnesses. White is now scheduled for a jury trial March 31 through April 2.
Judge Courrier returned on February 13, beginning with arraignment for Trevor Roy. LaMora filed a motion for an evaluation of Roy, however Roy opposed. Counsel will discuss with his client, therefore arraignment will be postponed until return. Roy is indicted with two counts of sexual assault second degree and two counts of domestic battery.
William Ball, Jr. was indicted on two counts of retaliation against a public employee, each with a possible penalty of one to 10 years. LaMora requested an additional bond condition to prohibit Ball from possessing a firearm due to the nature of the case, with an objection from the defendant. Judge Courrier chose to allow Ball to have a firearm on his property for the sole purpose to use on his farm for the protection of his livestock, though if used otherwise or taken off his property; it will be considered a violation of his bond. Ball is set to return on March 12 at 10:30 a.m.
The arraignment of Tammy Wratchford followed with one count of possession with intent to deliver with a potential penalty of one to five years.
Justin Campbell appeared for arraignment from the June 2019 Grand Jury. He was arraigned on one count of forgery and one count of uttering with a possible sentence of one to 10 years each. Campbell is currently in custody of the Department of Corrections even though bond was issued when appearing in Magistrate Court. If Campbell is released from DOC custody, he will be subject to the bond terms set.
Fred and Tracy Herz appeared on a motion filed by the state to remove the court appointed attorney. LaMora argued the Herzs have not been truthful in their financial affidavits and requested the court force them to provide financial records that support their affidavits.
Judge Courrier informed the Herzs they are to file an amended financial affidavit to the court.
The court was presented with findings on the request of the defendants to change venues for the remainder of their hearings and trials. After review, Judge Courrier determined the case would have to be moved out of Tucker County; however, LaMora requested they remain within the circuit, recommending Mineral County which still falls within Judge Courrier’s jurisdiction. The defendants requested relocation to Martinsburg, W.Va., however that request was denied and granted LaMora’s request to move to Mineral County. All pretrial hearings will remain in Tucker County until that time.
Charles McCrum followed on 20 counts of sexual assault and/or abuse. The defense announced that his client would not be accepting any plea agreements; therefore, a trial date will need to be set. McCrum will return March 12 to set his trial date.
Offering a plea, Jamie Ferguson entered the courtroom before Judge Courrier. He pled guilty to two counts of burglary, one count of breaking and entering, and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle, all of which are felonies. Ferguson also pled guilty to one count of fleeing causing damage and one count of assault on an officer, misdemeanor charges. As part of the plea agreement, prosecution did not argue sentencing, but decided to leave that up to the court. After Judge Courrier heard from Ferguson, the defendant was sentenced to not less than one nor more than five years. The remainder of the sentence will be suspended but his time will run consecutive if he violates any terms of probation once released from prison.
LaMora also requested full restitution to the victims involved, which was also granted.
The last hearing for the day was that of David Scott, who pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Scott was placed on deferred adjudication for 18 months, which means the defendant is allowed to avoid formal criminal conviction, but rather serves his term in another manner which can include probation or community service, for example.