EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSSHAWN LESTER
from Eyewitness News Online
Sniper Suspect's Federal Sentencing On Gun Charges Postponed
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Jun. 12, 2012 3:52 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 12, 2012 5:31 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
A federal judge decided Tuesday afternoon to delay the sentencing of Shawn Lester. Lester was set to be sentenced on federal gun charges on Wednesday.
As part of the sentencing, the prosecution was prepared to bring eight witnesses, according to court documents filed by Lester's attorney. Many of those witnesses are also witnesses in the state's murder case against Lester. Lester is charged with three counts of murder for the sniper style killings in 2003. He will be tried on the murder charges in late July.
Judge John Copenhaver says he's afraid if those witnesses are called tomorrow it could "poison the well" for the potential jury pool in the state murder case.
According to federal prosecutors, the witnesses were going to testify in the federal sentencing about Lester's drug use and his distribution of drugs, "plots to kill" a drug dealer and a witness in the murder case and his habitual possession of firearms. Prosecutors argued the information provided by the witnesses is not directly connected to the murder cases.
The US attorney has filed an upward variance motion in the federal firearms case, arguing that Lester should get more prison time for his dangerous past. The witnesses were going to be called to demonstrate that past.
Lester's attorney argued the sentencing guidelines already take into account his prior convictions and the testimony is unnecessary.
In a motion filed last week Deirdre Purdy said, "This is an apparent attempt to prove by a preponderance of evidence that Lester is a generally bad person who should therefore go to jail for as long as statutorily possible. The State may also be using this opportunity to prepare and test its murder trial witnesses or to assure a long sentence for Lester if, as is quite possible, the State's theory of the sniper murders fails to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
Deirdre wrote that the government offered a plea agreement in the federal case, proposing that Lester plead guilty to first degree murder, but Lester refused and entered a straight plea.
Lester's sentencing has been rescheduled for September 13.
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