Judge denies new trial, less sentence in jail case

By JOSH COTTON

jcotton@timesobserver.com

A post-trial motion filed on behalf of Eddie Ray Gray, who was convicted to during a jury trial in August on charges related to a 2012 escape attempt at the Warren County Jail, was denied during criminal argument court held on Friday morning.

Gray was in the Warren County Jail last year facing charges related to letters threatening court officials and witnesses sent while he was serving a five- to ten-year sentence for robbery in State Correctional Institute – Forest, a term he began serving in 2010. Those charges would eventually net Gray an additional sentence of between 35 1/2 and 71 years incarceration.

He was found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of assault by a prisoner, disarming law enforcement, use of an incapacitation device and criminal attempt (escape) following a jury trial in August and sentenced to, in aggregate, an additional 20 years eight months to 41 years and four months.

Defense attorney Bernard T. Hessley argued that information emerged very late in the trial that revealed the incapacitation device a taser was never checked into evidence. He said that if he had known that earlier, he would have filed a motion to suppress the taser as evidence. He asked Friday for a new trial.

Regarding the sentence, Hessley said that the Commonwealth was offering a 5- to 10-year plea deal to Gray if he “plead guilty to everything.” Gray did not take the plea and, according to Hessley, exercised his constitutional right to a trial and received a sentence that “amounts to a life sentence. It amounts to a penalty (for) going to trial and being successful.”

Gray was found not guilty of 8 of the 15 charges.

Attorney Todd Goodwin, with the Attorney General’s office and participating by telephone, said that he did not recall the taser issue being raised at the time of trial and explained that the data from the taser was entered as evidence and the subject of reliable testimony.

Regarding the sentence, Goodwin acknowledged that the court has discretion on the sentence but also argued that the Commonwealth’s position would have resulted in an even longer sentence.

Judge Gregory Hammond, who presided over the trial and over Friday’s criminal argument, said that all of the sentences he imposed were in the standard range for the crimes that Gray had been convicted of. He said he “felt it was an appropriate sentence” and argued, due to that, Gray was not punished for going to trial. Reconsideration of sentence was denied.

Hammond also denied the motion for new trial, indicating that the data that was presented from the use of the taser was adequate and “even if an objection was timely stated, (it) didn’t have sway with the jury.”