Two released from prison on bail


Two men who have been imprisoned, each for the last few years, were released on bail on Wednesday, but not with a clear outcome of the motions heard before the Highland County Common Pleas Court.

Nathan Lee Murray, 27, has been in prison for more than four years. Jody Raye Watson, 37, was sentenced to prison two and half years ago.

Each man was represented on Wednesday by the same attorney from the state’s public defender’s office. The motions filed by that office last month essentially say that the language in the respective judgement entries filed after the men were sentenced to prison was deficient in their explanation of post release control (PRC) in regard to the two men’s cases, thereby rendering void the PRC time each man was ordered to serve.

With Murray in 2011 and Watson in 2013, after each man pled guilty to felony offenses, they were ordered to serve additional prison time as each one was on PRC following the completion of other prison terms.

Murray was initially convicted on fourth-degree felony failure to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to 14 months in prison in September 2011. At that time Murray was under PRC supervision from a felony the year before, so he was ordered to serve the additional time, which was about five extra years.

Murray’s motion states that his sentencing entry from 2011 did not include the language that prison time for a felony committed while on PRC would be served “consecutively” to the PRC time, which the public defender argued made the PRC void.

Judge Rocky Coss played the audio recording of that hearing back during Wednesday’s hearing, in which he clearly provided the correct language to Murray when he was sentenced on the previous felony.

But assistant public defender Allen Vender said that while the verbal notification was correct, the filed entry was not, and that deficiency made the PRC void.

Coss argued that a post-sentencing correction to the “typographical error” would be all that was needed to correct that since the verbal notification was done correctly in the first place. The retroactive action is called a nunc pro tunc entry and can be used to correct an entry while a defendant is still serving their prison term, the judge said.

The judge released Murray on an own recognizance (OR) bond only, but informed the defense that he would file an opinion by Friday overruling the motion.

When Watson was sentenced to 24 months in prison for third-degree felony illegal assembly in September 2013, he had 595 days of PRC time remaining that he was ordered to serve consecutively to the new sentence.

The motion filed by the public defender’s office states that Watson’s PRC is void also because of a language issue in the entry filed. As Watson’s prior felony was in Ross County, and the record was not made available to the court on Wednesday, Coss instructed Vender to obtain the Ross County record and the court would proceed from there.

Watson was also allowed to be released on bail with a follow-up hearing scheduled in the coming months.

Coss told Vender that his office would not see this issue from his courtroom in the near future as the judge and staff has been going through past records to correct PRC language as needed during sentencing. As an example, there were three video hearings with defendants in prison scheduled on Wednesday for that reason alone.

In other hearings Wednesday, a bench warrant was issued for the arrest of Trevor Wayne Gibson, 21, Hillsboro, who failed to appear for a hearing. Gibson is charged with fifth-degree felony aggravated possession of drugs. Probation officer Gary Breeden said he has not seen or heard from Gibson since early May.

Codee James Lewis, 22, Leesburg, pled guilty to fifth-degree felony drug possession and will be sentenced in August.

Larry McQuitty, 66, Hillsboro was sentenced to community control. He pled guilty to marijuana possession in April.

Earl Stephenson, 49, currently housed at the North Central Correctional Institution, was denied judicial release from prison. He was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for illegal cultivation of marijuana in the vicinity of a juvenile, a second-degree felony.

Joshua A. McKenzie, 26, Hillsboro, was granted judicial release to the STAR residential treatment facility. McKenzie in 2014 was sentenced to a total of 52 months in prison in three separate cases involving drug charges.

Deanna Eloise Boggs, 40, Hillsboro, admitted to violating the terms of her supervision and will be sentenced in August. She was initially granted admission into the prosecutor’s diversion program in January.

Chad A. Cline, 38, New Vienna, also admitted to violations and will be sentenced in August. A year ago Cline was granted intervention in lieu of conviction.

Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.

Nathan Murray, right, is pictured with assistant public defender Allen Vender in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday. Murray, right, is pictured with assistant public defender Allen Vender in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
Both cases will come back before the court

By Angela Shepherd

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