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Bond denied for two felons with charges for firearms

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  • Article Image Alt Text
    James M. Slater
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Tyrone S. Hitchcock

Two defendants arrested in separate cases involving the possession of firearms by convicted felons will remain in jail after being denied bonds for the second time in Jones County Superior Court.

James Mark Slater was arrested Feb. 12 and charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. His first attempt for bond was Sept. 30, at which time bond was denied by Superior Court Judge Amanda Petty.

Slater was back in court Dec. 2 in front of Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson. He was represented by defense attorney Tim Lam in both attempts.

Lam told the court in the Dec. 2 hearing that his client was scheduled for trial in October but asked for and was granted a continuance.

“He’s been in jail now for a while. He has a record but not violent,” the attorney said.

Burleson asked if he was charged with aggravated assault, and Lam said yes.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Cara Fiore. She said the arrest took place after an argument that ended with Slater bursting into a house with a shotgun and confronting two victims. Fiore said one of the victims was shot in the face.

The prosecutor said the defendant has six felony convictions that include federal convictions for possession of firearms. She said he has several violent crime convictions and had arrests in Florida and Texas.

“The victims in this case are terrified,” Fiore said.

She added that Slater was arrested three times for carrying a firearm after he was a convicted felon.

“He is a risk to influence witnesses and to reoffend. The state believes he is a danger to the community,” Fiore said.

Lam said his client is presumed innocent, and he said Slater has a different version of the incident.

Burleson asked when the state could be ready for trial, and Fiore said she could be ready by

February.

The judge commented that she could see why Slater’s bond had been previously denied. She denied bond stating that the defendant was a danger to persons and property and a risk to commit a new felony.

“This case needs to be shifted to the top of the list for trial,” she added.

Crime report

A report of the incident leading to Slater’s arrest by Lt. Wesley Ransom with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department stated that he responded to the call about the shooting at 1:10 p.m., Feb. 12.

Jones County Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Coleman said he was at Fire Station 6 on Upper River Road checking equipment when the call about the shooting was dispatched to Fire Station 6.

Coleman said the victim was brought to the fire station. He said the victim did have a gunshot wound to the head but was conscious and was able to talk. Firefighters assisted the victim until an ambulance arrived and took him to Navicent Health Center.

Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said deputies were able to determine that the incident had occurred at a nearby residence and responded to that scene.

He said the investigation revealed that a dispute over alleged stolen property had escalated to physical violence, and a shotgun had been discharged.

The sheriff added that the offender had left the scene but he and the vehicle he was driving were identified. A Monroe County deputy spotted the suspect on Hwy 87, and Reece said he was taken into custody without incident.

Hitchcock denied bond

Tyrone Slater Hitchcock was the next before Burleson, also asking for bond. Lam represented Hitchcock, who was denied bond Sept. 30. He said Hitchcock was scheduled for trial in October, but the state was not ready to go.

“He’s been in jail for months and lives in the area,” the attorney said.

Hitchcock was arrested June 15 and charged with receipt, possession or transport of firearm by a convicted felon or first offender probationer, driving without valid license misdemeanor, trafficking in cocaine-illegal drugs-marijuana or methamphetamine, and possession firearm or knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime.

He was arrested with Zaynah Latrelle James, and the codefendants were indicted on the offenses by a Jones County Grand Jury Aug. 2.

James was granted a $65,000 bond at a July 8 hearing. Part of the argument for her release by Public Defender Tom O’Donnell was a letter written by Hitchcock taking full responsibility for the drugs found at the June 15 traffic stop.

Fiore was the prosecutor on the case and told the court that the arrest was the result of a tip from a confidential informant about drugs coming into the county. She said Hitchcock had 95 grams of meth, well over the amount required for a trafficking charge. She added that the defendant’s criminal history spanned 32 cycles going back to the 1990s.

The prosecutor said Hitchcock has four felony drug convictions and a 2020 conviction on the charge of battery.

“He been convicted of thefts and drugs and came to Jones County with meth,” she said. “He is a drug dealer and is a risk to reoffend.”

Lam said Hitchcock is presumed innocent and asked for a reasonable bond.

Burleson denied bond stating that the defendant is a risk to commit a new felony. She also instructed the attorneys to identify the case as one of the top cases for trial in February.