By: Jack LattaStaff Writer
October 16, 2012
PRESTONSBURG — The trial of five men accused of beating of a fellow inmate began on Tuesday and came to an end before jurors could get comfortable in their seats.
All five agreed to plea deals with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, bringing the case to an abrupt close.
A little after 9 a.m., Floyd Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris gave the jurors a recess, in order to hear motions brought by the defense attorneys. When the jurors returned at 10:20 a.m., Judge Harris told them the “good news,” that the case had been settled and that their attendance would no longer be required.
“This was going to be an extended trial that would likely go past Halloween,” Harris told the jurors. “Sometimes it just takes looking at the jury to get a deal done.”
Three defendants, Ivan Gunnels Jr., 31, of Eastern; Matthew Ritchie, 28, of Garrett, and Kevin Woods, 26, of Allen, each pleaded guilty to one count of complicity to second-degree assault. The recommended sentence for Richie and Woods was eight years each, while Gunnels sentence was recommended at five years.
The remaining defendants, Christopher N. Newsome, 38, of Harold, and Stephen Jervis, 50, of Prestonsburg, each plead guilty to one count of facilitation to second-degree assault and were sentenced to 12 months in jail. Each of the defendants was originally charged with one count of complicity to first-degree assault in the beating of Fisher.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Arnold Brent Turner said he was satisfied with the agreement.
“The victim and his guardian were in agreement with the plea offers,” Turner said, adding that Fisher’s guardian, Tina Green, did not wish for him to have to testify to face his attackers.
Fisher’s condition has not improved since the beating he suffered at the hands of fellow inmates while lodged in the Floyd County Detention Center. On Aug. 10, 2008, Fisher was found in his cell near death. During what police said was three days of abuse, Fisher suffered “broken ribs, a broken back, fractures of his skull and facial bones, and other injuries too numerous to mention,” When Fisher was finally taken to the hospital he was placed on a ventilator, had a shoeprint on the side of his head and was “in a near-vegetative state.”
One defendant originally named in the charges, Michael Rowland, died before he could be brought to trial.
Fisher, through his niece, Tina Green, also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Floyd County, Jailer Roger Webb, and jail employees Richard Rankin, Josh Howell, Parker Derossett and Dwayne Marsillett, as well as three unidentied employees, in their official and individual capacities. Also named in the suit were Keith Page, Ronald Spurlock, David Johnson, Larry Adkins, as well as the defendants in the criminal case.
The case was dismissed in May 8, 2012, after the parties reached a settlement. Details of the settlement were not readily available.