Lawyer changes, continuances, guilty plea part of Tuesday proceedings

Last updated: April 29. 2014 5:05PM - 4558 Views
By - ashepherd@civitasmedia.com

Bobbie Jo Chandler is pictured with defense attorney Lee Koogler during a hearing in the common pleas courtroom on Tuesday.
Bobbie Jo Chandler is pictured with defense attorney Lee Koogler during a hearing in the common pleas courtroom on Tuesday.
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With but a handful of hearings in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, only one came to a resolution with a Greenfield woman pleading guilty to a count of illegal assembly about a week after her husband was sentenced to prison on similar charges after being found guilty by a jury.

Bobbie Jo Chandler, 44, charged with third-degree felony illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs in a January indictment, pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in June following a presentence investigation.

Judge Rocky Coss said the recommendation of the state, contained within the plea agreement, was for community control and the STAR program.

At one point in Tuesday’s hearing, Coss stopped to make sure the emotional Chandler was in complete agreement with moving forward with changing her plea to guilty. She said she was.

Chandler was ordered to undergo a STAR assessment prior to her June 4 sentencing hearing.

In other proceedings, Melanie A. Evans, 27, of Hillsboro, in a final pretrial hearing for a case where she is charged with illegal manufacture of drugs and illegal assembly, second- and third-degree felonies, respectively, told the judge she wanted to hire her own attorney.

She claimed her current, court-appointed counsel hasn’t listened to her and has cursed at her and her father.

But Coss said Evans’ father was “loud and aggressive” with the court staff on Tuesday, even calling one of them a liar when they didn’t produce a document to change attorneys, something the judge said didn’t exist.

Coss said he understood that Evans’ father has an interest in his daughter’s defense, but that he is not the defendant.

The judge said she was free to hire her own attorney, but the May 12 trial date was to remain on the docket. A status hearing was set for next week, and Coss advised Evans that if she is to secure a new attorney, it needs to be done by then.

Ryan S. Skaggs, 39, of Hillsboro, was originally to be sentenced Tuesday after admitting to probation violations earlier this month, but the case was continued because he hasn’t been assessed for the STAR program.

His attorney said she was told that was because Skaggs had an active warrant out of another county for failure to appear, that had to be dealt with before he could be assessed.

Coss ordered the assessment to be done anyway, and said the other county’s assignment officer would be contacted by the court.

Skaggs, who is currently in the county jail, was initially sentenced to three years community control in January for fifth-degree felony heroin possession.

Wesley A. Stratton’s case was also continued based on a change in attorney. He was originally appointed a lawyer by the court, but has since hired his own counsel, who asked for the continuance to have a chance to talk about the case with Stratton.

Stratton, 21, of Hillsboro, was ordered by Coss to pay for the court-appointed attorney up to Tuesday, adding that it was the court’s policy that if a defendant can afford to hire his own counsel, he can pay for the appointed counsel, too, rather than taxpayers footing the bill.

Finally, Dale A. Brown, 42, was granted judicial release to the STAR program in a video hearing from the Belmont Correctional Institution.

Brown was sentenced to 36 months in prison last August after pleading guilty to third-degree felony trafficking in drugs.

Angela Shepherd can be reached at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @ashepherdHTG.

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