Criminal court activities took to two venues, last Wednesday, the regular day for criminal court in Howard County.
Judge Tom Cooper heard motions and pleas in the District Court courtroom in the City-County Building. At the same time, Judge Charles Yeargan presided over a jury trial in the upstairs courtroom at the courthouse.
In the courthouse, a jury was selected by mid-morning, and the trial of Christopher R. Vaughn, 34, black male, De Queen, got underway. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, a class B felony, and resisting arrest and driving on a suspended license, both misdemeanors.
Vaughn had resisted a plea bargain offer from Prosecutor Bryan Chesshir, preferring his chances before 12 jurors.
That was a mistake.
The jury retired to weigh Vaughn’s fate at 3:50 p.m., and returned with a guilty verdict in 35 minutes.
Then, the jury took only another 35 minutes to decide upon Vaughn’s sentence. His offer from the prosecutor had been eight years, but the jury handed him the maximum — 40 years with a $15,000 fine, also the maximum. The jury found him not guilty on the resisting arrest charge, and the driving on a suspended license charge was not pursued.
across the street
In the District Court courtroom, Judge Cooper sentenced one defendant, and took ‘not true’ pleas from defendants in three probation revocation trials.
The guilty plea was by Jason Pettit, 35, white male, Hope, who was charged with a pair of class D felonies — possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced under ‘deferred adjudication,’ meaning that if he meets the terms of his drug court sentence he will not have to serve five years in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). He will, however, have to pay the $1,000 fine plus court costs within 180 days as a part of drug court.
Probation trial dates were set for three defendants.
Rebecca Dawson, 46, white female, Nashville, is charged with failure to meet the terms of her probation on a February 2013 conviction for possession of a controlled substance by fraud, a class D felony. Her trial date was set for April 23.
An April 9 trial date was set for Cowan Fritts 32, white male, Nashville, for alleged failure to meet the terms on his February 2009 conviction for theft of property and driving on a suspended license. On the same date he faces trial on separate charges.
A not true plea was given by Maudell Gamble, 57, black female, Nashville, charged with failure to meet the terms of her probation on a February 2009 conviction for theft of public benefits, a class B felony. Her trial date was set for April 9.
One continuance was granted. Public defender Greg Vardaman was appointed to represent four defendants.