Niece pleads guilty to forgery charges

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A young woman with Lewisburg relatives pleaded guilty in Marshall County Circuit Court to forgery charges last week.

Jessica Leanne Prince, 23, also known as Jessica Harper, cashed two checks in May 2009 at First Commerce Bank in Lewisburg, according to court records. Both checks bore her name as payee.

However, Prince's younger sister stole three blank checks from "Aunt Melba" during a visit to her home in Lewisburg, according to a statement in the case file.

The sister's statement indicates that she took the checks after receiving a text message from her stepfather who "told me if I didn't (take the checks) he would tell my mom I had been talking to a black guy."

Prince's statement describes how her stepfather told her, "since Melba is my aunt, she won't press any charges on me," and gave her checks to cash that were already made out. Prince cashed a check for $5,000 at First Commerce Bank on May 22 and handed the money to her stepfather, who gave her $1,000. On May 31 she cashed another check, this time for $6,700, and got $900. Prince alleges that she did not know the checks were stolen until the police started questioning her about them.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Prince to two years on each count, to be served consecutively. She must serve 30 percent of the sentence, or almost 15 months, before being eligible for parole. Prince was also ordered to make restitution of the full amount of $11,700 to First Commerce Bank.

Documents in the case file show Prince also has convictions in Maury County: theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2007; theft and attempted forgery in 2009; and theft in 2010.

Crigler also presided Friday over a post-conviction hearing for Daniel Martin Ewing, 21. He pleaded guilty in May 2009 to criminal responsibility for rape, and to introducing contraband into a penal institution. Crigler accepted these pleas and sentenced Ewing to 12 years at 100 percent and six years at 30 percent, to be served consecutively.

Represented by Nashville attorney Karen McDonald, Ewing moved to have his sentence set aside and a new trial scheduled.

McDonald claimed that Ewing "truly did not understand" the length of the sentence he would get, and "was not well served" by his appointed counsel, Terry Hernando.

Crigler listened to nearly a full day of testimony and then "respectfully" denied the motion.

In support of his decision, Crigler read from the transcript of the plea hearing, in which Ewing is recorded as answering "yes" to questions whether he understood what he was doing and was doing it voluntarily.

"You can't read this and conclude he didn't know what he was doing," Crigler said, also stating that, in his opinion, Hernando "did a fine job; everything he could."

Ewing is alleged to have held a pillow over the face of a young Lewisburg woman while David C. Bates, 32, raped her on June 20, 2008. Bates was convicted in a three-day jury trial in May 2009 and sentenced to 22 years at 100 percent, a few weeks before Ewing pleaded guilty.