Judge holds fast on ‘danger to others’ bonds
The Powell Circuit Courtroom became quite intense during motion hour last Wednesday. Powell Circuit Judge Frank Fletcher took on an issue that some attorneys seem to dislike. That is his rulings that in some cases the suspects are a “danger to others.” Now he wants to either be able to do his job or have someone appeal his decisions to the state court of appeals.
Regardless of either outcome, Fletcher stands by his decisions.
At question were two cases in particular. One involves a man charged with DUI and murder after police say he was under the influence of medications when the accident occurred. The other case involves a husband and wife who are charged with trafficking in controlled substances.
Fletcher unloaded on David Ward, the attorney for DUI and murder suspect Brian Epperson. Ward had asked for a bond reduction hearing. Fletcher noted that the hearing could be held, as it was the law to do so, but he also felt that attorneys were questioning his rulings as if he had “made it up.”
Epperson was arrested after he allegedly crossed the center line on Hardwick’s Creek Road last November and struck a truck head-on. The driver of the truck, Donnie Tharpe, was pronounced dead at the scene and his passenger, Constance Puckett, was injured. Epperson did agree to take a blood test and told police he had taken a Xanax, which was prescribed for him. However blood test results found that Epperson allegedly also had methadone and oxycodone in his system. There was no evidence in court records that either of those medications had been prescribed for him.
“I don’t care to give you the hearing, you’re entitled to it,” Fletcher said. “But the evidence is out there and what I saw I don’t think I’ll change my mind right now.” Ward questioned the “danger to others” that Fletcher placed in his bond decision when Epperson was indicted. His bond is set at $325,000.
“I brought a paper with me from Jackson and it has a story about a Breathitt County woman who sold oxycontin to someone and they died from it. She pleaded guilty in federal court and is looking at 20 years to life,” Fletcher countered. “I’m at my wits end. He (Epperson) is charged with allegedly killing someone and that seems to be a danger to others.”
Fletcher went on to say, “I’ve took it for five years, the calls and people wanting to question all of this. I just want to do my job and do what the statutes allow me to do. If you don’t agree then file an appeal. I respect the court of appeals and their decisions. Setting bonds is my job and I don’t mind doing it.”
A bond hearting was held and Fletcher said he would take it under advisement. In past cases in which he takes them under advisements, bonds usually do not change.
The next case was just as heated. Attorney Tucker Richardson stood in to represent Ralph Robinson and hid wife Carolyn. Both have been charged with trafficking in a controlled substance. Police conducted a raid at their home after and informant who was wired for audio and video, allegedly purchased medications from Carolyn. Police found over $50,000 in cash, nearly 600 pills and numerous guns in the home during the raid.
Richardson asked for a bond reduction and Fletcher told him he brought the newspaper “just for you.” Richardson noted that Ralph Robinson was ill which led Fletcher to quickly respond. “I guess if you’re sick you can break any law you want in the Commonwealth,” he asked.
Richardson stated that there was no evidence that Robinson was guilty, saying that the money could have been there because “some people don’t trust banks. Fletcher then responded with the items and money police found. “If my wife had almost $60,000 in cash, 600 pills and a bunch of guns in my home, I believe I would know it. I better know it. How would he not know it,” Fletcher said.
“You think I make this stuff up,” Fletcher remarked. “But here it is, in the paper. I know you (attorneys) think of this as a hunky-dory state court, maybe we ought to send all drug cases to federal court, you wouldn’t talk to federal judges like this.”
Fletcher denied the bond reduction and set a July 23 trial date for the Robinson’s. Richardson stated that he already a notice of appeal prepared as he “anticipated being overruled.” Fletcher also ruled that both of the Robinson’s could be transported to doctors appointments as scheduled.
“I’m just trying to do my job. I was a defense attorney for 20 years, I understand what you all go through,” Fletcher said as the quiet courtroom watched. “Respect is a two-way street. From the time they hit the doors at the jail I start getting calls and people want to talk to me about cases. Just let me do my job and please be patient with the court.”