DOBSON — A Surry County judge shot down two unrelated plea agreements in Superior Court recently for insufficient punishment terms in each.
In one case heard on May 10, Michael Joseph Vawter, 37, of Pilot Mountain, had pleaded guilty to seven counts of third-degree sexual exploitation in exchange for amended charges, consolidation of the charges for sentencing and a suspended sentence with no active time.
According to the factual basis for the plea, Vawter had been charged with seven counts of second-degree exploitation of a minor following an investigation of a November 2014 tip from a State Bureau of Investigation special agent that a Surry County resident possessed child pornography.
A search warrant was executed at Vawter’s home on Dan Bryant Road, and the defendant eventually confessed to downloading the pornography in question, Assistant District Attorney Mike Beal stated in court.
A polygraph test indicated truthful responses to Vawter’s admissions that he had possessed the pornography but had never harmed any child.
He had also admitted to using a work computer to view child pornography images, Beal said, noting that Vawter had been cooperative with his own case and with assisting in an outside matter.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge A. Moses Massey paused for some time after hearing from Beal, clarified that the indictments had been issued for offenses in 2014 ranging from Oct. 6 to Oct. 10 and called a bench conference with the prosecutor and Kernersville defense attorney Harvey Barbee.
Massey then spoke on the record that he had indicated the day before he would accept the plea agreement.
“Having heard more detail today and considered it more, I don’t feel comfortable with the provision of no active time,” he said, informing the defendant that the decision was through no fault of his attorney.
“The buck stops here with my changing my mind.”
Vawter will appear in court on July 6.
Counterfeit ring plea rejected
Ebonee Andra Saymon Middleton, 23, of East Shore Lane, Charleston, South Carolina, appeared in court on May 10 on charges stemming from a counterfeiting ring that allegedly struck Mount Airy in late June 2014.
Five or more individuals were implicated in a scheme that involved the circulation of bogus $100 bills in the area, according to earlier media reports, which state that Middleton was arrested after counterfeit money was allegedly passed at Kentucky Fried Chicken on Rockford Street.
She was charged with two counts each of possession of five or more counterfeit instruments and uttering a forged instrument, three counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of conspiring to obtain property by false pretense, which is a class D felony.
On Tuesday, Presiding Judge Massey referred to the the plea transcript at the beginning of the proceeding, noting that the police officers involved in prosecuting or apprehending the co-defendants had requested the particulars of the arrangement because of Middleton’s “substantial assistance” to law enforcement regarding her co-defendants.
The arrangement included an unsupervised probation sentence in exchange for Middleton pleading guilty to two counts of possession of a single counterfeit instrument, a class I felony.
Massey said he was not aware the plea arrangement was for unsupervised probation and stopped the proceeding.
Middleton is scheduled to appear in court on July 6.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.