TAYLOR COUNTY—Courts across the state were tasked with finding alternative ways to hold hearings in the wake of the COVID-19 catastrophe, and on Thursday morning, Taylor County Circuit Court employed a program that allowed them to host a hearing remotely.
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Moats resided over a bond modification hearing for Timothy Junior Newlon, 42, who was indicted in January for one count of third offense domestic battery, in two separate cases.
“Today we are holding this hearing remotely, through Skype,” said Moats.
Also on the video conference was, Prosecutor John Bord, Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Miller, Defense Council Tyler Reseter, Probation Officer Justin Carter, Moat’s law clerk and his court reporter, who were all accessing the meeting while practicing social distancing.
Moats revealed that until the middle of March, the court system had never used the video conference option, as it was not available. But, following the travel and meeting restrictions that were set in place, the courts needed a viable option to continue holding hearings when needed.
He said that the Skype program has been used in the opioid litigation that he is presiding over with another judge, where lawyers from different states have taken place.
In addition, he said that nearly 900 court officials were logged in to a conference with the WV Supreme Court addressed the opening of courts.
“It was all done very quickly,” said Moats. “It has been very beneficial and will continue to be long after this pandemic is through.”
He said with the new technology, instead of incurring large travel expenses for conferences, they will now be able to hold them through the program.
He said that Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Chief Justice Tim Armstead has worked to ensure that judges are happy with the process and that everything is working smoothly.
“He has been just phenomenal to work with on this,” voiced Moats. “He has called me personally to ask how I thought it was going with the new program, saying that he wanted my input because I had been a judge for so long.”
During the hearing, Moats revealed that Newlon had been placed on a $100,000 bond for his alleged infractions.
“My client just does not have the funds to pay that kind of bond amount,” said Reseter. “He has been in jail for four months now. We are asking that he be possibly released on a personal recognizance bond with supervision.”
He said that home confinement would be a possible option if the court deemed fit, and that he believed bond supervision through the Taylor County Community Corrections program would be sufficient for his client.
Miller noted that the state would not oppose a reduction in bond, as long as there was some kind of supervision tied to it.
Reseter also revealed that Newlon had the promise of living with a friend upon his release.
Moats ordered that Carter would need to make contact with the friend to ensure that he was still in agreement for Newlon to take up residence there upon his release.
“You were indicted in September, but that indictment was thrown out as defective because it failed to list the victim,” recalled Moats. “You knew that your case would then be heard during the January term of Grand Jury, but before that could even happen, you were charged with another third offense domestic charge. Following your indictment, you have had even more.”
He continued, “Therefore, I want you to understand that should you be released, you are to have absolutely no contact with the victim in this case. No calls, no emails, no mail, no slipping notes and you may not have anyone do any of those on your behalf.”
He ordered that the investigation would need to be completed before he would address the reduction in bond.