Whitesburg KY

Ison out of prison, but still has price to pay

Just because Jason Ray Ison is out of prison doesn’t mean his legal troubles are over.

Ison, 24, was released from the Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Sandy Hook around 1 p.m. on January 22. The release came after the Kentucky Supreme Court let stand a Court of Appeals ruling which found that Ison was wrongly convicted of six criminal charges filed against him after his wife and two other passengers in his car were killed in a traffic accident near Whitesburg in October 2005.

Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks points out that the Appeals Court did not vacate all of Ison’s felony convictions.

“The felony conviction for firstdegree criminal mischief was not vacated,” said Banks. “Mr. Ison was found guilty of intentionally or wantonly causing the destruction of the Jeep owned and operated by Tracey Craft. First-degree criminal mischief is a class D felony.”

In September, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel reversed the April 2007 conviction of Ison and ordered the dismissal of charges of first-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment (two counts), and reckless homicide (three counts). The appeal was filed on Ison’s behalf after he was sentenced to 18-1/2 years in prison.

The ruling did let stand Ison’s misdemeanor convictions on charges of having defective equipment on his car (bald rear tires) and failing to have automotive insurance.

“Thus, in addition to all of the traffic offenses, Mr. Ison is and remains a convicted felon,” said Banks.

The Appeals Court ruling said the jury was not presented with enough evidence against Ison to support its “clearly unreasonable” finding that Ison was acting “with criminal conduct” when he lost control of the Ford Mustang he was driving on KY 15 near Van and crashed it into an oncoming vehicle driven by Tracy Craft.

Killed in the wreck, which occurred on the rainy afternoon of October 21, 2005, were Jason Ison’s wife, Misty, a friend, Jimmy Boggs, and his cousin, Allen Bailey. The impact also resulted in a severe leg injury to Ms. Craft. Two passengers in her SUV were not injured.

According to the judgment signed in April 2007 by Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright, Ison was ordered to make a lump sum payment of $76,062 to Tracy Craft by May 9, 2007 for her medical bills. There is no record of Ison paying any of the restitution to Craft.

“The action of the Court of Appeals did not in my opinion relieve Mr. Ison of the portion of the judgment requiring him to pay thousands in medical bills for Mrs. Craft,” said Banks. “She may never collect a penny, but to the extent he does not pay these bills, he is subject to the contempt power of the court. If the court ruled he is still obligated to pay these costs, as I believe, and if the court found him in contempt, he can receive up to 12 months in the county jail for each violation of non-payment of these bills. If I am incorrect, then he walks away and leaves her holding all of these bills as he had no insurance on the car.”

Banks said only time will tell how the matter turns out.

“I sincerely hope (Ison) makes every effort to pay regular payments toward the restitution as Mrs. Craft and her family do not deserve the stress caused if he does not pay these bills,” said Banks.

Family members who lost loved ones in the wreck are not happy that Ison is out of prison and were upset to read that Ison’s father has demanded that court officials apologize to his son.

“I just can’t sleep at night knowing that he is getting out of prison,” said Misty Ison’s father, Johnny Branham of Craft’s Colly. “It’s just not right.”

Branham said the court system is wrong to have reversed the conviction.

“We just loved our daughter,” said Branham. “We know what happened and he is not innocent. We are the ones that have to suffer. It’s a dagger to my heart and a lot of other people.”

Branham said he misses his daughter.

“I can’t look at Misty anymore,” he said. “I can look at her photos, but photos fade. I’ll never lose those memories. That was my life. She was everything to us.”

Branham said he now worries when his 19-year-old son goes anywhere.

“I tell him I love him every day,” said Branham.

Stella Boggs, of Cowan, lost her 23-year-old son, Jimmy.

“I’m upset,” said Boggs. “We’re the ones that lost our children. He should be the one to apologize. As far as I am concerned the Supreme Court made the mistake.”

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