The man accused of shooting another man during a dispute at Walmart in August, 2020, was granted a diversion Wednesday afternoon in Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self’s court.
James L. Martin, 62, who was originally charged with first-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment and receiving stolen property (firearm), entered a guilty plea deal Wednesday afternoon to amended charges.
The plea deal dismissed Martin’s assault and endangerment charges and recommended that his receiving stolen property charge, which carries a usual sentence of one year in prison, be diverted for a period of one year.
“To be clear, the victims in this case are also in agreement that the other charges are to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement,” Self said to the court regarding Martin’s plea deal.
After entering his plea, Martin and defense attorney Sands Chewning chose to waive a separate final sentencing hearing and proceed with his sentencing.
Ultimately, Self chose to follow the commonwealth’s recommendation within the plea deal and granted Martin a one year diversionary period.
A diversion means that as long as Martin follows all the rules placed upon during his diversion period and does not commit any additional crimes, his charges would be dropped and expunged from his record.
“So, what that means is, for the next year, you’ll have this kind of hanging over your head,” Self said to Martin. “If you complete that one year period of probation or diversion, at the end of that time period, this remaining charge would be dismissed/diverted at that time.
“Basically, you’ll be on probation for the next year. You’ll have a probation officer to report to and certain conditions you’ll need to comply with.”
According to New Era archives, Martin is accused of shooting a man during a custody exchange at Walmart on Aug. 23, 2020.
Martin allegedly grabbed a child belonging to Wesley Beach and drug him toward a vehicle causing an argument between Martin and Beach. Martin then allegedly brandished a firearm and shot Beach, according to archives.
Beach allegedly attempted to return fire from his own firearm during the altercation, but was not able to hit Martin.
Beach was transported to Jennie Stuart Health and was treated for gunshot wounds to his chest and arm, archives added.
In other court news, Tyler Frances, 30, who is accused of juvenile sexual abuse on a church bus, received his final sentence Wednesday morning from Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins.
Frances is charged with first-sexual abuse.
Frances recently entered a guilty plea to first-sexual abuse.
As the sentencing hearing began, Atkins allowed Frances’ defense attorney Sands Chewning to speak on Frances’ behalf in order to argue for him to be granted probation in the case.
Chewning explained that prior to the sentencing hearing, Frances had been evaluated by the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center in August this year and the evaluation revealed that he had been diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
“This happened very late in life — this was the first time he had been diagnosed with these since these charges were brought up,” Chewning said. “I think he is a victim of neglect as a child for not being diagnosed and treated with these, but now, his sister has stepped in making sure that he gets the treatment and care he needs.”
Chewning continued to share that Frances would be living with sister and is now getting the family support he needs.
Chewning added that when he was charged in the case he had been working and as soon as he was released from custody, he continued to work and maintained employment. He also shared that Frances has no other criminal history.
“He has learned from his mistake and already has an appointment for outpatient sex offender treatment classes to be done if the court probates him,” Chewning said. “We are asking that the court probate him and allow him to do those classes and also continue his mental health treatment.”
Following Chewning’s arguments, Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling shared with the court that the victim’s family in the case wanted Frances to be convicted of a felony, be required to register as a sex offender and complete sex offender treatement.
“Those were all the mandatory things that they wanted to ensure and all of those were accomplished with this plea,” Boling said. “And, I explained to the family of the victim that the court would make the ultimate decision whether to grant probation or not to grant probation.”
Boling made no other arguments regarding Frances’ sentencing.
Atkins then chose to grant Frances probation in the case for five years, with strict conditions, including having to register as a sex offender.
“I’m doing that because the victim and the family obviously feel that incarcerating you would accomplish nothing and I share that belief under all of the circumstances of the case as I know them to be,” Atkins said.
Atkins continued to explain to Frances that he would also be required to be on ankle monitor for the first six months of his probation and would be restricted to only be at his home or his appointments with sex offender or mental health treatment.
According to New Era archives, Frances is accused of inappropriately touching a 15-year-old female on a church bus in April 2019.
The girl’s parents told officers their daughter told them a man named Tyler ripped off her underwear and put his fingers into her vagina.
The incident reportedly happened on a church bus and members of the church identified the man as Frances.
Officers then went to his home, arrested him and read him his Miranda rights. After being read his rights, Frances allegedly admitted to officers that he had touched the victim’s buttocks and vagina while on the church bus.