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Guilty pleas eliminate18 circuit court trials

Rows of defendants lined up Wednesday to plead guilty and avoidtrials in Lincoln County Circuit Court.

In groups of about five defendants at a time, Judge Mike Smithquickly moved through the guilty pleas on a busy day of court. Inall, 18 defendants pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes.

Unless their cases were continued, Wednesday was the last dayfor defendants to accept plea agreements from the DistrictAttorney’s Office. Assistant District Attorney Jerry Rushingcredited the Public Defender’s Office for its role in moving casesthrough the legal system.

“They’re very well-prepared,” Rushing said.

After hearing recommendations from the DA’s office, sentencingfor most of the defendants was scheduled for Tuesday. The interimwill allow time for corrections officials to completepre-sentencing investigations to determine defendants’ criminalbackgrounds.

For defendants recommended to serve time, Smith issued a sternwarning as he allowed them to remain out of jail on bond untilTuesday.

“If anybody doesn’t show up, your sentence will be the maximum,”Smith said.

Two defendants were sentenced Wednesday:

* Willie Bates, 38, of 420 East Cherokee St. — two counts ofuttering forgery. He was sentenced to three years on each count, torun concurrent, and ordered to serve the first 30 days with theremainder on post release supervision. He was also ordered to payrestitution to victims, a $500 fine and $250 to the Crime VictimsCompensation Fund.

* Victor Earl Johnson, 40, of 308 Union St. — two counts ofthird offense DUI. He was sentenced to three years on each count,to run concurrent, and to serve the first 60 days with theremainder on probation. He was also ordered to pay $8,000 in fines,be examined to receive anti-alcohol medication and to seek alcoholand drug treatment.

Guilty pleas from defendants waiting to be sentenced next weekinclude:

* Willie James Henderson, 18, of 364 Highway 583 — burglary ofa dwelling.

* Rodney Dewayne Rushing, 20, of 1921 Falvey Road — burglary ofa dwelling.

* Eric Cheyenne Coglan, 23, of 3765 Cole Dr. Bogue Chitto –burglary and conspiracy.

* Jay Dean Hux, 20, of 2818 New Sight Dr. — burglary andconspiracy.

* Billy R. Bledsoe, 37, of 923 North Egypt Circle — two countsthird offense DUI.

* Terry Demorest, 19, of Hazlehurst — uttering forgery.

* Timothy Bowman, 17, of 107 Brady Dr. — uttering forgery.

* Gary Wayne Sanders, 29, of 531 North Jackson St. — aggravatedassault.

* Darrick Dale May, 25, of 1340 Sammy Trail — aggravatedassault.

* Henry Earl Rawls Jr., 22, of 304 East Enterprise St. –failure to support minor children.

* Lynda Wheat, 47, of 1898 Brumfield Road, Summit –embezzlement.

* Michael Smith, 24, of 4235 Highway 550, Union Church — sexualbattery.

* Thomas Murphy, 32, of McComb — third offense DUI.

* Jonathan Robert Hutt, 21, of Wesson — third offense DUI.

* Melissa R. Porter (also known as Melissa R. Byrd), 30, of 3165Highway 550 — third offense DUI.

* Eddie L. Thompson, 25, of Jackson — unlawful possession ofmarijuana with intent to distribute.