The special prosecutor assigned to the case of a former Letcher County sheriff ’s deputy accused of stealing guns and money says he doesn’t ask that defendants be arrested on indictment warrants unless that defendant is a flight risk or a threat of violence.
Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley said former sheriff ’s lieutenant Brian Damron, 38, of Jenkins, didn’t meet criteria necessary for an indictment warrant to be issued.
“My general policy is I don’t request them unless there are extraordinary circumstances,” said Bartley, who was assigned to the case after Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks stepped aside. “That’s my general policy and I treat him like everybody else.”
In January 2004, the Kentucky Supreme Court approved the amendment of Pike Circuit Court’s local criminal rule pertaining to arraignment, which states that after an indictment is returned, the circuit court clerk issues a summons for the defendant to appear in court.
With nearly 400 indictments returned in Pike County each year, Bartley said the issuance of letters notifying defendants of the date and time to appear for arraignment has produced better results than having indictment warrants served.
“We get better results of them coming in,” he said.
Defendants aren’t always at their residences when police officers attempt to serve warrants. It may take longer to locate a defendant and set a court date than it would be to send a letter notifying the defendant when to appear in court, Bartley said.
In Letcher Circuit Court, letters to appear in court are mailed only to those indicted who already have bonds, which were set in district court. These defendants have been arrested and arraigned prior to being indicted. A preliminary hearing has been held and the district judge determined that enough evidence is available to bind the case to a grand jury, which returned the indictment. The case is now moved from district to circuit court.
Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright issues indictment warrants to defendants who don’t have bonds. The only exception is in child support cases and these defendants receive a letter to appear in court and bond is to be posted on arraignment date.
In addition to not being considered a flight risk or threat of violence, Bartley said a summons to appear was issued to Damron rather than an indictment warrant because a judge wasn’t immediately available to issue an indictment warrant. After Wright returned the indictment on May 13, he stepped down from the case, citing conflict of interest. It took at least a week for Floyd Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris to be appointed as special judge.
Damron was issued a letter to appear in court on June 1, at which time he pleaded not guilty to felony charges contained in the eight-count indictment accusing him of stealing cash and six weapons purchased by the sheriff ’s department — two AR-15 rifles manufactured by the Doublestar Corp. of Winchester, Ky., and four Glock 26 “Baby Glock” handguns.
Damron posted bond of $1,000 in cash on June 5.
Judge Harris set Damron’s pre-trial conference for July 14 and told Damron’s attorney, Daniel Dotson of Whitesburg, and Bartley that if the two sides intend to reach a plea deal it better be done by that date.