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Supreme Court rejects man’s argument

Defendant claims he should never have to face charges

KINGWOOD — The State Supreme Court rejected a Preston County man’s argument that because he wasn’t tried within three terms of court on a 2017 indictment, he should never have to face the charges. 

The court issued its ruling Thursday.

 Lisa Hyre was the attorney for Paul Cramer, now 28, who  was indicted in 2017 on 14 felony offenses.

Preston’s terms of court begin the first Tuesday in March, first Tuesday in June and the third Tuesday in October. West Virginia law says a defendant must be tried within three terms of court, unless special circumstances are met.

 In the appeal, Cramer said the June and October 2017 terms, and March 2018 term, passed without him going to trial.  

He was indicted March 7, 2017, the same day that term of court began. Over the next year, both sides filed motions and attended hearings that led to the trial being postponed several times, the ruling says.

 On Aug. 16, 2018, the state moved to dismiss the 2017 indictment on the grounds it had learned of  other alleged victims and it would “be in the interest of justice and judicial efficiency” to handle all the cases together.

The Preston judge granted the dismissal over the objection of Cramer’s attorney.

Cramer was indicted in January 2019 on 18 felony offenses and entered a Kennedy or Alford plea  May 6, 2019, to three charges, reserving the right to challenge the conviction based on the three-term rule.

 He argued he should be “forever discharged from prosecution” on the charges because of the three-term rule. 

The delays weren’t his fault, he argued. The supreme court disagreed, noting that at a May 10, 2018, hearing his attorney agreed she needed more time before trial to file motions.

Even if two of the terms that passed were not the petitioner’s fault, it was clear the March 2018 term was excused by both sides, the court said.

Cramer was sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison, to be followed by up to 50 years of supervised release on his conviction. 

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