Judge drops charges over speedy trial violation

LISBON – Charges have been dismissed against Vonlie W. Cooper, after Judge C. Ashley Pike ruled this week Cooper’s rights to a speedy trial were violated.

Cooper, 25, Weirton, W.Va., was charged in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court with failure to comply with a signal of a police officer and two counts of possession of drugs. He was reportedly fleeing from authorities two years ago when he was shot in the foot by a highway patrol trooper.

Two hearings were held before Pike last month on a motion, filed by Cooper’s defense attorney James Hartford, to dismiss the charges. In his ruling, Pike noted the disputed time frame in Cooper’s case seemed to be between April 19, 2012 and Sept. 19, 2013.

According to a timeline laid out by Pike, Cooper was under house arrest in West Virginia throughout half of 2012, and it was during that time that Columbiana County sheriff’s deputies were unable to find Cooper because they were looking for him in correctional facilities. In February 2013, deputies learned Cooper was on house arrest and indicated they planned to extradite him, but they decided to wait after learning Cooper had recently undergone surgery.

However, while deputies were waiting, Cooper reportedly cut off his house arrest bracelet and ran from police in West Virginia on April 12, 2013.

While Cooper was bound over to the grand jury on March 15, 2012, a superseding indictment, which added the two drug charges to the original failure to comply charge, was not served to him until Sept. 19, 2013. By then, Pike indicates, the speedy trial limit had already expired.

“The great majority of law enforcement personnel are responsible, honest and hardworking,” Pike wrote in his decision. “It is no doubt true that some of their professional efforts do not get written down nor properly recorded because of the pace of their duties. But courts must decide cases on the evidence presented. The court finds that the available evidence is insufficient for the state to show it acted with reasonable diligence.”

Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said this week she was reviewing Pike’s decision to determine if she should file an appeal with the Seventh District Court of Appeals. For now, at least, Cooper’s charges are dismissed.

On March 2, 2012, Cooper allegedly had been southbound on state Route 45 in Madison Township and refused to stop for patrol Sgt. Timothy Timberlake. Cooper reportedly led troopers on a chase which included state Route 518, Old Route 45, Osbourne Road and Hibbitts Mill Road. The chase also went through a trailer park. It ended when Cooper reportedly went into a driveway and crashed into several trees before fleeing on foot. While running through the wooded area and a creek, Cooper was reportedly shot in the foot.