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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Circuit judge makes believers out of many

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jason Evans
Circuit Court Judge Harold Erwin has rejected a plea agreement proposal for a man accused of numerous burglaries and thefts, some which occurred while homeowners were home.

After hearing a prenegotiated plea agreement on June 26, between public defender R.T. Starken and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tom Garner, the judge declined the plea regarding defendant Jason Evans, because the deal did not include immediate prison time.

Evans, 41, of Cherokee Village was arrested in August, 2011 following a lengthy investigation into multiple break-ins and thefts in the city.

Officers with the Cherokee Village Police Department and Sharp County Sheriff's Department seized five truckloads of stolen merchandise after search warrants were issued on two locations in Cherokee Village. According to a affidavit for warrant of arrest, the Cherokee Village Police Department received a report of a break-in at 29 Lakeshore Drive in Cherokee Village. The break-in listed 75 items as missing. A search warrant was executed July 27 by the department on a home at 156 Cherokee Road, where Evans was known to live. During the search, more than 10 items were recovered from the Lakeshore break-in. There was a total of 97 items recovered from other burglaries and thefts within the city including chain saws, tools, furniture, appliances, electronics and even a home made wooden bi-plane.

Evans was arrested and later posted a $30,000 cash bond. While on bond, he again was accused of breaking into homes, but, this time, the owners were at home.

Evans was again arrested in May after Cherokee Village officer Phillip Dunlap took a report of a home invasion burglary that occurred May 2.

During the break in, a Visa debit card was stolen, and the owner was told by her bank that the card had been used at an ATM in Hardy that morning, with $300 being withdrawn from the account.

The bank's surveillance video revealed a male subject identified as Evans withdrawing money.

The shirt Evans was wearing during the withdrawal was recovered from a vehicle Evans was driving.

The plea agreement Erwin considered was for all the cases against Evans. As Garner stood before Erwin with multiple files open, looking at each to explain charges, the judge said he had the utmost faith in the prosector's office but said he was not accepting the plea.

The plea would sentence Evans to 60 months with a 15 year suspended imposition sentence, allowing him to also take credit for the jail time he served.

Garner explained the plea would force Evans to be sent to jail for any laws he might break in the future, and would allow him to begin paying over $47,000 he owes in restitution.

Erwin said he would not accept anything less than 20-25 years for the crimes, and explained Evans would not be able to pay back restitution, before he was 90 years old.

Erwin said he was sending the case to Judge Kevin King, or gave Evans the choice of going to trial for his crimes.

Many in the courtroom were elated at his decision saying the judge had renewed their faith in the legal system.

This was not the only time Erwin exercised what many deemed as fairness from the bench that day.

Donald Ray Renfro appeared before the judge because he owed fines from a 2008 firearm possession charge.

The older man explained he lives on a fixed income of Social Security and was a diabetic and could not afford air conditioning, much less a $570 fine.

Renfro claimed that, after paying for insulin shots, he had only $30 to live on.

Renfro told the judge he would just have to take him to jail, because he had no means to pay the four year old fine.

Erwin said, "You're free to go."

In another prominent case, Erwin set an October trial date for Jeremy Pierce, the man accused of writing over $100,000 in bad checks to the Ash Flat Livestock Auction.

Pierce, who was arrested in June, is currently in the Sharp County Jail on a cash only bond.

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