TAYLOR COUNTY—A Taylor County man put the jury to the test in Taylor County Magistrate Court, but after the one-day trial, a guilty verdict was handed down.
Harlin Martin Felton, 65, of Simpson, was found guilty of multiple charges including Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, Obstructing Law Enforcement, Improper Vehicle Registration and No Proof of Insurance following a jury trial on Monday.
During the day, the State of West Virginia, represented by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Rachael Bickel, called two witnesses to provide testimony of the events that took place during a June 10 traffic stop, that resulted in Felton’s charges.
Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy Dylan Johnson took the stand to recount the happenings that unfolded that evening.
According to Johnson, he and Aaron Fagons, a member of the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department’s security staff who was on a ride along with the officer, were out patrolling on Simpson Road, when they noticed a brown Cadillac, driven by the defendant, that had a taillight out.
The deputy initiated a routine traffic stop to address the infraction, and once the vehicle was stopped, Johnson learned that the license plate that was displayed on the car was not registered to the vehicle.
“When Johnson attempted to inform Mr. Felton of the improper registration and that the license would need to be removed from the vehicle, the defendant became enraged and began to cuss the officer, threatening him,” revealed Bickel. “It was then that Felton slammed his car door into Johnson’s legs, knocking him backward, as he proceeded to exit the vehicle threatening the deputy further.”
An altercation ensued between the two men, which resulted in a struggle, but Felton was ultimately subdued and taken into custody.
Fagons was also called to the stand, and his testimony of the event mirrored that of Johnson’s.
During Johnson’s time on the stand, Bickel played for the jury body cam footage of the stop, and it was that bit of evidence that was a major deciding factor in Felton’s guilty verdict, according to Bickel.
Defense Attorney Ira Richardson then called to the stand Harlin Felton, Jr. and Gail Harris, to aid in his clients claims of innocence.
Harris told the court that she had only witnessed Johnson and Felton wrestling on the ground, but because she had not physically seen the events leading up to the altercation, her testimony did not bear much weight.
Felton’s son claimed that he had not seen his father strike the officer with the car door, but on cross examination, Bickel once again played body cam footage where he had admitted to the deputy that he witnessed the event in question.
The defendant also took the stand and testified on his own behalf. It was his claim that he did not intend to hit Johnson with the car door, and that the officer was merely standing too close to the vehicle.
After testimony was heard from both sides and body camera footage was played for the jury, the twelve men and women were sent to deliberate.
It only took the jury 20 minutes to deliberate before they found Felton guilty of all charges.
The Honorable Magistrate Reese did not sentence the Defendant immediately. Bickel disclosed that a sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a later date.