Jeremy C. Swartzmiller, age 23, appeared before Chief Judge David W. Hummel, Jr. on Feb. 16 for sentencing.
Swartzmiller was named in a one-count indictment in October 2011, charging that he committed the felony offense of receiving stolen property. He was alleged to have received two stolen Honda dirt bikes constituting a total value of more than $1,000 in June 2011, along with Gavin Hisam, who was also indicted. Both defendants entered guilty pleas to the charges. Hisam entered into a plea agreement with the State, however, Swartzmiller did not.
At his December 2011 court appearance, Swartzmiller's attorney, Patricia Kurelac, requested the opportunity to convince the court that his sentence be different from what the Prosecution recommended. At that time, Prosecuting Attorney D. Luke Furbee told the judge that in his opinion, defendants have an absolute right to plead guilty without an agreement. Judge Hummel agreed, and accepted his plea of guilt.
Hummel ordered a pre-sentence investigation into the matter. Prior to the most recent court date. Kurelac and Furbee informed the Judge they had both received copies of the report and did not have questions with regard to its contents. "It will be as-is," Hummel stated.
Turning to speak directly to Swartzmiller, Hummel said, "This is about you. So I'm going to give you an opportunity to urge the court about what you believe is fair and reasonable and proper in this instance."
Hummel informed the defendant he was not obligated to speak. "Nothing you say will hurt my feelings or make me angry. If you do not want to say anything, that is fine. If you do want to speak, you can stand up, sit down. . .however you are comfortable. Just educate me on why you believe I should consider an alternative form of sentencing."
Swartzmiller remained seated. He began his explanation by stating, "I know what I did was wrong." In lieu of a traditional jail time, he requested to be placed on home confinement for a period of six months.
"I would like to help take care of my mother," he remarked. "So I would like to see about the possibility of house arrest."
Hummel asked, "What did you do in this instance?"
Swartzmiller replied, "I received a stolen dirt bike."
"You received a stolen dirt bike?" Hummel replied.
The defendant clarified, "I bought a stolen dirt bike."
Judge Hummel asserted that the dirt bike in question was ultimately returned to its owner.
Ms. Kurelac further explained her client's situation. "Your Honor, Mr. Swartzmiller's mother is present in the courtroom today. She has some back problems that are very serious. Although she used to be a nurse, she is now almost completely homebound. His father is a coal miner and Jeremy provides all assistance for his mother."
Kurelac informed the court that Swartzmiller also provides his mother with transportation to appointments in Morgantown. Judge Hummel reminded the defendant "home confinement would not allow him to make those trips."
"There are family member, not in this immediate area, that he will have to reach out to for help if home confinement is granted," Kurelac said. "If he is sentenced to serve time in the North Central Regional Jail, we ask for time to make arrangements (at home)."
Kurelac informed the court this was Swartzmiller's first and only felony charge. Other than a domestic dispute that was taken care of in Magistrate Court, he does not have criminal background. "He is not a threat to society," she said.
Furbee said, "Your Honor, the Court may recall the co-defendant in this case accepted a plea agreement extended by the State of West Virginia. In the co-defendant's case, the sentence was not less than one or more than 10 years." Hisam's sentence was commuted to two years of supervised probation and 60 days incarceration in the North Central Regional Jail, plus restitution.
"The State extended the same agreement to (Swartzmiller) and he chose not to enter into the agreement. The State does not have legal basis to not offer what was offered previously," Furbee said.
He continued, "I believe home confinement is an alternative sentence If the Court is inclined to grant this, it should be (a sentence of) not less than one year of more than 10 years."
Furbee also stated half of the restitution should be paid by Swartzmiller.
"The Court concurs with the State that home confinement is alternative type of sentencing," Judge Hummel said. "Take your pick."
After conferring with his attorney, Swartzmiller agreed to serve no less that one year or more than 10 years of home confinement. He will be eligible to petition the court for parole after a period of one year.
Additionally, Judge Hummel ordered Swartzmiller to pay restitution in the amount of $1,096.13 to the victim, plus $70 to Wable Ford for towing and storage. "That is payable within one year of today," Hummel remarked.
Also appearing in court was Amber Lewis, age 19, of Sistersville.
In April 2011, Judge Hummel sentenced Lewis to not less than one nor more than five years in prison for felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (marijuana). After serving four months, the State agreed to a Rule 35* motion and Lewis was released on probation.
During the time Lewis was on probation, a warrant was issued with regard to a new felony drug charge. As a result, Adult Probation Officer John Lantz filed a petition to revoke.
Kurelac requested a continuance in the revocation process to discuss the case with her client. Furbee informed the Court he had no objection to the request, if Lewis was waiving the preliminary hearing. Kurelac agreed to the stipulation on Lewis' behalf, and Judge Hummel ordered the defendant to return on March 1.
Five defendants appeared in court for extradition: Jessica E. Grimes, Joseph D. Lambert, Debra K. Eastham, Daniel P. Eden and Sheila L. Eddins were picked up by law enforcement officers in Tyler County on various warrants originating from jurisdictions outside West Virginia.
"We are not here to address the charges," Hummel explained. "This proceeding is to determine if we you are to return to (other areas) to face the charges."
He asked the defendants is they had given thought to resisting extradition. All five agreed to return to face their various charges. He also noted that if they were facing charges in Tyler County, They would not be extradited immediately.
"How long will this take?" Lambert asked.
Judge Hummel informed him he would him authorities in North Carolina 21 days to take him into custody.
All defendants were remanded to the North Central Regional Jail to await extradition or further court proceedings.