This time they really did get the wrong man.
Justin Juan Bates, 34, of Box 3265, Highway 15, Whitesburg, did not help two others steal a Fleet One credit card from the Fleming-Neon Volunteer Fire Department and charge more than $500 in a sixmonth period from December 26 through March 31.
Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II is so convinced of the innocence of Justin Juan Bates that he has filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the felony indictment charging Bates with theft or receipt of a stolen credit card, criminal complicity to the receipt of a stolen credit card, criminal complicity to the fraudulent use of a credit card, and criminal complicity to receiving goods obtained by fraud.
Banks filed the motion to have the indictment dismissed on May 15, the same day The Mountain Eagle carried a front-page story detailing the latest round of indictments returned by the grand jury.
Almost immediately after the paper hit the street and landed in mailboxes across the county, the mother of Justin Juan Bates telephoned The Eagle to proclaim the innocence of her son. The mother, Connie Vance of Whitesburg, was referred by the newspaper to offices of prosecutor Banks, who quickly determined that a clerical error had led to the wrong Justin Bates being named in the indictment.
“An order has been forwarded to the Letcher Circuit Court requesting the dismissal of the indictment against Justin Juan Bates with leave to return a new indictment against the correct Justin Bates,” Banks wrote in a letter to The Eagle. “At the time the indictment was returned, the grand jury was only provided with the name of the alleged defendant and the record check ran to identify the correct defendant resulted in the only name on file being Justin Juan Bates. It was later determined after we were contacted by the mother of Justin Juan Bates that he is not the individual in question.”
Added Banks: “I would appreciate it if you would print this correction in the next edition of The Mountain Eagle in as conspicuous of a manner and location as possible in an effort to minimize the aggravation to Justin Juan Bates and that you note when the new indictment is returned that the individual alleged to have committed the offense is Justin Bates of Highway 1862 [Mayking-Thornton- Camp Branch] and not Justin Juan Bates as originally identified in the indictment.
“I greatly appreciate your assistance in this matter and apologize for any inconvenience.”
Connie Vance, who is employed at a Whitesburg law firm, says the mistake has caused her son to “suffer great embarrassment.”
“The fallacy of the information age is upon us,” she said, referring to a webbased service that resulted in the wrong name ending up on the indictment.