The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

April 9, 2014

Raleigh County judge declares mistrial in Cottrill conspiracy case

Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a 52-year-old Clarksburg man charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen property.

Robert Lee Cottrill was charged Oct. 27, 2013, with conspiracy to commit a felony and receiving stolen property along with his co-defendant Rickie Lojene Harper, 51, of Buckhannon.

Raleigh County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tom Truman said Cottrill and Harper were driving a stolen truck from Buckhannon and were apprehended by State Police officers.

Police got a hit on a license plate reader on U.S. 19 and stopped him just after he went through the North Beckley toll booth on the Turnpike.

Cottrill pleaded not guilty to the charges, but Harper pleaded guilty April 3 to conspiracy, by way of a plea agreement with the Raleigh County Prosecutor’s Office, and the receiving stolen property charge was dropped.

Harper is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. May 29.

Also as part of the agreement, Harper was compelled to testify about the incident.

During the trial Tuesday, Truman said he asked a question and Harper answered honestly, but that answer provided evidence the jury was not meant to hear.

Kirkpatrick ruled that the answer provided evidence that was “prejudicial to the defense” and he declared a mistrial.

He said that the same jury panel cannot be used for the next trial, so the case must be continued to the next court term, where a new jury pool will be selected.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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