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Grand jury returns 17 new indictments

The Lincoln County Grand Jury is dealing with fewer cases whenthey meet, but jurors are meeting more often, District AttorneyDanny Smith said following the latest session this week.

During a brief two-day session that ended Wednesday afternoon,the grand jury returned 17 indictments, according the panel’sreport to Judge Keith Starrett. This week’s session followed anearlier one in March in which 55 indictments were issued.

“We’ve got an outstanding grand jury,” Smith said. “They’ve beenvery patient and have come back numerous times.”

In the latest round, Smith said indictments were issued in casesinvolving an aggravated assault, embezzlement, arson, robbery andthe usual marijuana and crack cocaine possession. The grand juryvoted to not return indictments in two cases.

Indictments are not made public until the accused is served withcourt papers.

Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte is in process of doing that.He said the department is fortunate in that a number of thoseindicted were either already in jail or have been released on bond,so they could be reached easily.

Smith said the grand jury is coming back once a month now in aneffort to better handle the criminal case load. That allows thecases to go to trial quicker and also addresses somerecommendations by the state Supreme Court for speedier courtaction.

“We’re doing smaller grand juries, but we’re having them moreoften,” Smith said.

Those indicted this week are scheduled to be arraigned May 2before Judge Starrett.

In other court-related activity this week, Starrett sentencedseveral people who had earlier pleaded guilty to crimes. Thosepeople include:

* John Howard, 40, of 1348 Hog Chain Road, Bogue Chitto – thirdoffense DUI. He was sentenced to three years, with the first yearto be served in the Intensive Supervision Program and the last twoon probation. He was also to pay a $2,000 fine and enter the drugcourt program.

* Willie Whaley, 21, of 534 Rogers St. – indicted on a charge ofunlawful possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, butpleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor unlawfulpossession of marijuana. He was ordered to pay a $250 fine.

* Amy Lee Cooper, 23, of Mendenhall – Starrett withheldacceptance of her possession of stolen property guilty plea andsentenced her under a state law allowing her record to be clearedprovided certain conditions are met. Those conditions include a$250 fine, $179 restitution, obtain her GED and enter an alcoholand drug treatment program.

* Aramis Varnado, 19, of 1134 Holmesville Road, McComb – felonyshoplifting. He was sentenced to three years, but placed in theRegimented Inmate Discipline program to earn probation. He was alsoto pay a $1,000 fine and $133 to the Crime Victims CompensationFund.

* Charles Lyons, 21, of 2132 Dixie Road – he was indicted on aburglary of a dwelling charge but pleaded guilty to misdemeanortrespassing. He was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended fortwo years good behavior probation; to pay a total of $200restitution and a $500 fine; and to obtain alcohol and drugtreatment and anger management counseling.