By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Honorable Judge Lynn Nelson had a full docket on March 13 in Tucker County Circuit Court consisting of sexual assault, worthless checks, and even murder among others. Tom Harsh, being held since October 31, 2017 for sexual assault by a parent/guardian, appeared for sentencing. Butch DiBacco, Probation Officer, conducted a pre-sentencing investigation on Harsh prior to his sentencing trial to aid in the judge’s decision for appropriate punishment. Defense Attorney Easton commented Harsh has been cooperative since day one and has showed remorse for his crime. Easton also noted his status as a Vietnam War veteran and at sixty-nine years old has no criminal history, though Easton said, “I acknowledge this is a very serious offense.” Harsh has been held at the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail in the medical unit due to being an amputee. Defense recommended Harsh serve his time on home confinement or probation with the understanding he would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora responded, “It’s just not enough.” A victim impact statement was submitted to the judge prior to the hearing for his review. “He violated the father-daughter trust basically,” continued LaMora, “10 – 25 is needed to bring justice.” Judge Nelson took a deep breath, stating “This is a very difficult case. Here we have a man who’s done fairly well for his life who’s committed a bad crime.” After a brief hesitation, Nelson sentenced Harsh to no less than 10 but no more than 25 years in the penitentiary with credit for time served.
Assisted in by a male subject, Tammy Mook took her place beside her council. Defense made a motion of severance of her charges, requesting a trial separating her charge of burglary and grand larceny from receiving and transferring stolen property. LaMora concurred bifurcating the two was permissible, but requested leaving the counts of the same charges together due to the common scheme and plan in which they were committed. The judge complied, and LaMora requested to move on the burglaries first. The two day trial is set for June 24 and 25. Prior to dismissal, LaMora requested the judge order Mook to partake in a random drug test due to her inability to remain alert and focused. The judge granted this request with the defense stating his client was just sick. “Well if she’s just sick she’s just sick,” replied Nelson before dismissing.
In the case of Jason White’s charges of murder, Defense Attorney Fuelhart is still working on getting the results from his approved expert. Reiteration was made for the importance of ample time for cross-examination of the results and the opportunity for the state to secure their own expert if needs arise. As of now, the five day trial by jury is still scheduled for April 29 – May 3.
Department of Corrections did not transport Charles Wolfe, however his council was there to reschedule his two day jury trial. It is currently scheduled for July 15 and 16.
Anthony Steele entered with Defense Attorney Prentice. Steele was being held on possession with intent to delivery and recently was removed from the Anthony Center and transported back to the regional jail due to violation. LaMora requested he fulfill his remaining two months in that facility while his council requested his release. Nelson decided to release Steele, to which he responded “Thank you, your Honor.”
Appearing next was Lynyrd Nestor on one count of burglary. A plea agreement was arrived upon with a guilty plea to this felony while dropping the intent to deliver a controlled substance charge. As part of the plea agreement, the typical sentence of one to 10 in a penitentiary was reduced to a five year probation sentence.
Michael White also entered a plea agreement confessing as guilty to one felony count of worthless checks with the dismissal of two misdemeanor counts of the same. White allegedly issued a check for $3,900 to Adkins Home Center and $700 to Kidwell Auto Parts which funds were not available for. The sentence for such crime is one to 10 in a penitentiary which was reduced to five years probation with the first year on the Community Corrections program. It was agreed there would be restitution for the bad checks to the businesses owed, and if after three years on probation he can be released if all debt is paid. Unfortunately, White is serving a two to 20 year sentence for an additional felony; therefore he will go on probation after his release with credit for time served.
The final criminal case on the docket was that of Britni Ball, formerly scheduled for a jury trial for two separate, third count shoplifting. An agreement had been reached between council for a guilty plea to one count happening at Shop N Save in July of 2018, while the other count for an incident at Sheetz. Ball pled guilty to confiscating two wax melts and three steel wool pads and proceeding through the checkout lane without payment. Store Shift Manager Kathy Judy detained Ball and called police. Nelson read Ball her rights and her charges to ensure her understanding of the plea agreement. He explained he could only hear cases that occurred in Tucker County, to which he asked for confirmation that it did. After a moment of silence, Ball said, “I’m sorry what?” Nelson repeated his question to which she confirmed it did. Nelson continued by reading her charge, asking how she pled. Ball hesitated before turning to her attorney for him to explain the judge was asking if she is guilty or not guilty. “Oh, guilty,” replied Ball. A pre-sentencing investigation will be conducted by DiBacco at which time Ball will return for sentencing. The potential consequence for this felony is one to 10 years, which is what the state is requesting. In the case she is granted probation, LaMora is also recommending Ball be required to take random drug testing as well.