Your Day in [Magistrate] Court

September 21, 2017


Dade County Magistrate Judge Joel McCormick (left) heard preliminary evidence in an interesting cross-section of rural crime in his monthly criminal session on Wednesday. Prosecution was conducted by Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor. Defense was handled by Public Defender attorney Jennifer Hartline.


First, Judge McCormick heard testimony from Dade Deputy Dustin Coffman on a July 28 incident in which he responded to a call from the New Home area of Sand Mountain. Danny Lane, his uncle told Coffman, was joyriding his father’s Ranger all-terrain vehicle again though he had been forbidden to repeatedly, he had wrecked it three times, and his father had hidden the keys from him.


Deputy Coffman said he arrived to find the ATV wrecked and Danny Lane riding by on a bicycle. When Lane saw Coffman, said the officer, “He took off like a jackrabbit into the woods.”


Coffman pursued Lane but had to use his Taser before he was able to subdue and handcuff him. Coffman said Lane “reeked of alcohol and was very belligerent.” He arrested him for felony theft, misdemeanor marijuana possession and felony obstruction by tampering with evidence, because Lane had placed the marijuana inside his mouth.


Lane continued to resist arrest on the way to Coffman’s police cruiser and, once there, began trying to head-butt him. The uncle, Bill Seymour, used Coffman’s radio to call for backup. Coffman was unharmed, another officer shortly arrived, and Lane was taken to the hospital to be checked out. He left from there instead of being taken to the Dade jail, but his father is pursuing the charges against him.


In the second case before Judge McCormick on Wednesday, Deputy Matt Cole, who is currently assigned to the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, presented evidence in his arrest of Anthony C. Gass for possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana (less than one ounce).


Cole described the scene of the arrest as a house on Sand Mountain within 100 yards of Crossroads Hardware, where people he knew to have visited recently had been found in possession of meth. “That kind of piqued my interest,” said Cole, and he’d been surveilling the house with the idea that it might be a “meth house” where a significant amount of the drug might be recovered.


On Aug. 8, said Cole, he and another couple of deputies, along with Gass’s probation officer, performed a “knock-and-talk” visit at the house. Anthony Gass was on probation, and the house belonged to a member of his family, Cole explained.


Cole described the house as being without electricity, with a front door that stood always open and no doors at all on the inside. In the house they found Anthony Gass, whom Cole knew from having attended school and played sports with him, in a room he identified as his own bedroom, with a bag of marijuana in plain sight. Two people were leaving the room as the law officers entered, and one dropped a syringe. A methamphetamine pipe with a small amount of meth in it was recovered, as well as syringes and the marijuana. Gass said they were all his, said Cole.


The public defender, Ms. Hartline, asked Cole whether he had in fact recovered a large amount of methamphetamine from the house as he had hoped. He said he had not.


Next came the case of Michael Long, with evidence presented by Sgt. Casey York. York described making a traffic stop Aug. 19 on Highway 299 on  a vehicle because its window tints were illegally dark, then finding its steering column was broken and its ignition points hanging down, with no key. He explained the significance of that: “It is commonly associated with a stolen vehicle.”


Furthermore, said York, the registration tag for the car was for an Acura whereas Long was driving a Volkswagen Jetta. He checked on the car’s VIN number and discovered it had in fact been reported stolen from Fort Payne, Ala. He charged Long with the window tint violation, driving on a suspended license and bringing stolen property into the state.


Defense attorney Hartline then described to the judge a situation in which Long had bought the vehicle in West Virginia, had been staying in Fort Payne with a family called the Freemans and had become behind in his rent, so that the car had been used as a kind of collateral for the money; but Long had reclaimed it by the 18th when he was returning to West Virginia--”taking his own car back,” she said.


She also said the car, a 2002 model, was not worth much more than $1100 and asked Judge McCormick to address the value and adjust the amount of Long’s bond accordingly. The magistrate said he’d look into those matters later in the day.


Finally, Trenton Officer Chip Geddie presented the case against Justin Vanover, whom he’d found sleeping in a rental car on Aug. 13. Vanover was found to have a suspended driver’s license and a warrant against him in Cobb County, so he was arrested and Geddie had subsequently performed an “inventory” for items of value before having the car towed. In doing so he found small plastic bags associated with drugs, a marijuana grinder with a small amount of marijuana, and two more of the small plastic baggies containing  what appeared to be methamphetamine.


Magistrate Judge McCormick bound all the cases over to Dade Superior Court.

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