TAYLOR COUNTY—Taylor County Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Moats was once again on the bench, as court was back in session, following a delay due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
With safety precautions in place, lawyers, prosecutors, defendants and other court officials filtered into the courtroom bright and early on Monday. Armed with masks, gloves and sanitizing supplies, the proper procedures were followed to ensure the safety of all involved.
While a typical court day could see anywhere from 15 to 20 cases and because officials have to ensure proper cleaning between each hearing, maintaining of safe social distancing and gatherings of 25 or less individuals, the hearings have scaled back to four or five per day.
After his hearing on Tuesday, in a twist of events, one local man learned that he had successfully served an adequate amount of time, earning him his freedom.
Justin Cole Davisson was present in court with his defense counsel, Greg Michael, to face the music after failing to adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the Taylor County Probation Office.
The defendant had originally pleaded guilty to one count of felony destruction of property and was placed on probation in 2017. After reports of were made of his alleged violation of the conditions of his probation, a capias was issued for his arrest.
After being picked up in December 2019, a hearing was scheduled for March, but due to the pandemic, it was continued until Tuesday.
During the hearing, Moats noted that from the time of his initial charges, Davisson had been in the supervision of the court for nearly five years. The defendant reported that of that time, he had served approximately eight-and-a-half to nine months in jail.
“So with good time, that would give him a credit of one-and-a-half years served,” said Moats.
When asked for the input of Prosecutor John Bord on behalf of the state, he said, “I think that it is time that we cut him free.”
For his charges Davisson was originally sentenced to one-to-ten years in prison, and with the time he had put in, he was eligible for freedom.
“Although you have failed to adhere to the conditions of your probation, because of the credit for time served, I am releasing you today,” ordered Moats. “You have served your time and this case is now dismissed.”
Additionally, Moats heard negotiated plea agreements from numerous individuals over the first two days back in court, including that of Lannie Earl Shaffer.
Shaffer, who was charged with failure to appear, possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit a felony, was present with his counsel, Scott Shough, to enter and Alford plea for his conspiracy charge.
It was revealed that the defendant worked alongside another individual to have drugs smuggled onto the grounds of a correctional facility.
For his charge, he was facing one-to-five years in prison, and the state was recommending that his sentence would run concurrent to the 2-25-year term he is currently serving for daytime burglary and transfer of stolen goods, out of Kanawha County.
As part of the plea deal, the two additional charges would be dropped by the state.
“Should we go to trial, we feel that we have a very solid case against the defendant. First, we would have the testimony of his co-conspirator, as well as the recordings where they had discussed just how to have the Suboxone smuggled into the prison,” said Bord.
Satisfied that the state would more than likely be able to secure a conviction if the case was presented to the jury, Moats accepted the negotiated plea deal.
“We are asking that the court sentence Mr. Shaffer in accordance with the plea agreement,” said Shough. “This case has been dragging on for quite some time, and I believe I am the third lawyer that he has had.”
It was brought to the attention of the court that Shaffer would be eligible to go before the parole board in the begining of June to petition for parole.
“We hope that should he receive parole, he is more successful with it this time,” Shough commented.
Moats was in agreement and ordered that Shaffer would be sentenced to one-to-five years on his charg, which dated back to November 2017. He further ordered that the sentence would run concurrently with his current term, as the agreement stated.