Weatherford Democrat

July 3, 2013

Defendant’s appeal results in reduced sentence


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRISTIN COYNE

Three days of freedom ended up costing one Parker County defendant another five years on his original prison sentence this week, but it was still significantly less than the life sentence he was originally assessed when he skipped his May court date.

Geral Ray Pearce, 52, of Arlington, pleaded guilty in April to engaging in organized criminal activity for the manufacture of more than 400 grams of methamphetamine.

CID investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety say Pearce, along with other co-defendants in the case, conspired to manufacture methamphetamine at Pearce’s home and another location in Arlington in late 2010 and distribute the product in Parker County.

A sentencing date was set for May 2 and Pearce remained out of jail, as he had since June 22, 2011, on $75,000 bond.

“Mr. Pearce was ordered to return to court on that day and was told that if he did not, that the Court would consider his punishment without the benefit of a plea agreement and in his absence,” according to Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain.

Pearce did not appear May 2.

“He basically got cold feet on turning himself in on an 18-year sentence,” said Pearce’s attorney Shawn Paschall, adding that Pearce also had some family matters to deal with.

Instead of the 18 years in prison that the district attorney’s office and the defendant had agreed to under the plea arrangement, 415th District Judge Graham Quisenberry sentenced Pearce to life imprisonment during a punishment hearing with Paschall and Assistant District Attorney Abby Placke.

Pearce turned himself in to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office on May 5.

Two days after Pearce went before the judge May 7 to have the sentence formally imposed, Paschall filed a motion for a new trial, asking that the punishment phase be re-opened and punishment set according to the original plea agreement, according to the district attorney’s office.

“There were some legal issues regarding the life sentence,” Paschall said. “We felt like Mr. Pearce would have to be present.”

Quisenberry granted the motion for a new punishment phase and, during a hearing Tuesday morning, approved a new plea agreement between Pearce and the district attorney’s office, assessing Pearce’s punishment at 23 years.

“I’m satisfied with it and so is Geral, or he would not have agreed to it,” Paschall said, noting that Pearce was given an additional five years for the three days he did not appear.

“I think if he could do things over again, he’d do it differently,” Paschall said.

Co-defendants include:

• 48-year-old Melinda Nell Pearce, who was sentenced to five years probation in May.

• 44-year-old Shannon Lewis Burns received a 20-year sentence in April

• 47-year-old Sheila Jane Smith was sentenced to five years in prison in May.

• 40-year-old Peggy Colleen O’Kelley, whose case remains pending.

• 50-year-old James Michael Wiley, whose case remains pending.