Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 19, 2013

Attorney requests sentencing delay

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

LONDON — An attorney representing one of the two defendants convicted earlier this year in a federal trial involving an interstate motorcycle theft ring has requested his client’s sentencing hearing be postponed.

Garis Pruitt, of Catlettsburg, who represents Mark Justice, on Thursday filed a motion in U.S. District Court in London seeking a “brief continuance” of his client’s sentencing, which is currently scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 1.

If Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove grants Pruitt’s request, it’s likely the sentencing of Justice’s co-defendant, Richard “Dickie” Meade, also set for Aug. 1, will be pushed back as well.

Justice, 52, and Meade, 66, both of Ashland, were convicted in March of money-laundering, conspiracy and possessing a motor vehicle with an obscured identification number with intent to sell. Both could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison, but application of federal sentencing guidelines is likely to result in them receiving far shorter terms.

In his motion, Pruitt states the continuance of Justice’s sentencing hearing is needed to allow him and the U.S. Probation Office to “address and possibly resolve” the defendant’s objections to Justice’s pre-sentencing report.

Pruitt had earlier filed a motion to extend the time for filing objections to the PSR, which was granted. However, that seven-day extension expires today, and, even though he has already filed some objections, Pruitt said he intends to file additional ones no later than today’s deadline.

“In discussions with the probation officer who penned the PSR, however, counsel now realizes that the extension of time to file timely objections has created a situation where he and the officer will have no time to attempt to resolve the objections because the final disclosure of the report will occur on Monday, July 22, unless the sentencing hearing is continued and rescheduled,” the motion states. “Furthermore, the officer will have no time to respond to the objections in a normal fashion.”

In another recent development in the case, Meade’s attorneys, Michael Curtis of Ashland and Katherine MacPherson of Grand Rapids, Mich., filed a motion requesting their client be allowed to remain free on bond pending the outcome of the appeal of his conviction to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

In the motion, the attorneys state Meade should be granted an appeal bond because he isn’t a flight risk or danger to the community and that the appeal presents “substantial questions of law” likely to result in a reversal, a new trial or a sentence that does not include incarceration.

Among the issues the attorney said they intend to raise on appeal: Whether the stolen bikes Meade sold through his business, Hertz Car Sales, “lost their interstate character” by the time Meade purchased them from Greg Chapman, the ringleader in the conspiracy, who was killed in a shooting in Boyd County in March of 2007; whether the court erred in allowing police reports into evidence to prove the theft of the motorcycles; whether the court erred in refusing to allow co-defendant Robert Jason Chapman, Greg Chapman’s son, to testify when his testimony would have “completely exonerated” Meade; and whether the court erred in allowing the government to call a rebuttal witness who raised new issues that Meade had no opportunity to refute because he had already waived his right to testify.

In an affidavit supporting the attorneys’ motion for an appeal bond, Meade states he is a military veteran who is the primary means of financial support for his wife and two son, ages 16 and 20, and that he also cares for his 90-year-old mother.

“I am neither a flight risk nor a danger to my community and I will do whatever the court asks of me to further guarantee my availability in the event that my conviction is not overturned on appeal,” the document states.

Meade also states he would have never waived his right to testify had he known the rebuttal witness, a woman did title work for his dealership, was going to be called to the stand by the government.

Six other defendants pleaded guilty in the case, which involved the theft of motorcycles from biker rallies in Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota. The bikes were transported to Kentucky, stripped of parts that contained identifying numbers and sold as “rebuilt” or kit bikes.

The six who admitted involvement in the conspiracy received prison terms ranging from eight months to 10 years. Charges were dismissed against one defendant and another, George Ferguson of Ashland, was tried along with Meade and Justice in February and March and was acquitted.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.