Just as it has since last September, the Jan. 3 session of Fulton County Circuit Court was a frustrating one for Judge Tim Weaver, and many of the defendants appearing before him.
|The first case called involved a hearing on a request to revoke David Kingston's probation.|
Public defender Jim Pedigo told the judge he was not ready to proceed, because he had just gotten notice the day before that he was needed to stand in as public defender for the Jan. 3 session.
Pedigo, a retired public defender, has been serving as a "fill in" since Public Defender John Russo resigned in September to take a public defender post in Baxter County, where he lives. While Pedigo represents clients making their initial appearances, evaluates new public defender requests and handles plea agreements, he does not handle cases set for trial or argue motions.
Judge Weaver said in December that, in his 10 years on the bench, he has dealt with about seven public defenders who serve clients in Fulton and Izard Counties. Most do not stay long because they live long distances from the area.
On Jan. 3, case after case was passed to the Monday, Feb. 4 session, as Pedigo indicated he was not familiar with a particular case or was not prepared ready to proceed.
One defendant, Adam Waller, who has been in the Fulton County Jail since August, spoke out from his seat with fellow prisoners when told his request for a bond reduction hearing would have to be delayed until next month.
Waller, who is being held on a $50,000 bond for terroristic threatening, said, if his bond could be lowered to $25,000, he could get out of jail to enter a treatment program.
When a mental health evaluation was mentioned, Waller said he had already had one and he is tired of sitting in jail when he could be getting help.
"I would love to give you a trial today," Judge Weaver responded. "The Public Defender Commission has been in shambles. We have had no public defender here since September."
Weaver then repeated something he said several times as he heard cases, "We should have someone (a public defender) by then (the February session) "from what I've heard the past couple of days."
On Monday, Jan. 7, Judge Weaver told The News a new public defender was present for that day's criminal court session in Izard County. The new public defender is Scott Stalker, a long-time Batesville attorney, who is to begin handling Fulton County cases on Monday, Feb. 4.
Judge Weaver had more than the lack of a public defender to be upset about at the Jan. 3 session.
Two of the first four defendants called to appear before him were not in the courtroom. It was the start of a trend that caused Weaver to go beyond his normal order that a "Failure to Appear" warrant be issued for defendants who do not show up for court.
"Since so many people are deciding no to show, I'm going to start revoking bonds," Weaver said from the bench. "I'll let them sit in jail until trial."
After issuing Failure to Appear warrants and orders to revoke bonds for several defendants, Weaver added, "Sheriff, you're going to have standing room only (in the jail) when you get all these folks."
During a recess, representatives of bond companies got busy trying to contact their clients who had not appeared in court.
When court went back into session about an hour later, five AWOL defendants were present.
Judge Weaver questioned each defendant about why they were late to court. Saying, "I get suspicious when people are late," the Judge ordered that each defendant take a drug test.
Three of the five admitted, up front, that they had used drugs ranging from alcohol to marijuana to methamphetamine.
"This doping and being on bond has got to stop," a frustrated Judge Weaver said.
"Look around you. See what it's done to your lives."
One defendant, Jessica Shamblin, who had admitted to marijuana use while out on bond, also tested positive for amphetamines and was told to sit with other prisoners as she was going to be jailed and, as the court session wore on, three others were told they were going to be jail for a few days for violating the conditions of their bond.
Several cases were settled at the Jan. 3 session.
David Christopher Youngblood, 29, was sentenced to a total of 120 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction after he pleaded guilty to a theft of property charge that dates back to April of 2011. That charge involved the theft of guns from a home in Camp where an unsolved arson fire occurred. Youngblood also pleaded guilty to a more recent gun theft in October of 2012 and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Youngblood's sentence will run concurrent with a federal prison sentence.
Lynsay Anne Henry, 29, was sentenced to 60 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction after pleading guilty to Residential Burglary, Theft of Property, and Theft by Receiving. The sentence will be served concurrent with a federal prison sentence.
Kellyn Jo Smoot, 28, was placed on 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled drug, and attempting to smuggle the drug into the Fulton County Jail. Smoot was arrested after trying to hide the drug Alprazolam inside stationary she asked a jailer to give an inmate. Smoot must pay $2,945 in fines and court costs.