Norton held in federal prison

Sept. 30—GOSHEN — Court proceedings following a fatal shooting Aug. 23, 2020, at Hardy’s Bar, 610 S. Main St., Elkhart, continues to get more complicated following Thursday’s status conference.

Jordon Norton, 31, having already been found guilty of battery with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness for injuries caused to Kali Smith, and still awaiting a retrial for the accusation of murder of David Artley, 43, was unable to attend a status conference for retrial Thursday because he was being held in custody by the federal court in St. Joseph County.

The hold is caused by a probation violation for a firearms judgment dating back to 2018. Norton has a history of weapons-related crimes ascribed to his history.

In a case filed in Elkhart County Circuit on July 3, 2018, Norton was initially charged with two level 6 felonies by plea agreement in September 2019, for one count of criminal recklessness, and another count of pointing a firearm at another person after allegedly firing shots outside a man’s home in June 2018.

Norton was sentenced to 730 days, with 697 to be served under the supervision of Elkhart County probation. Including an earlier meth case, it was a total of about three years probation.

But less than a year after the initial Elkhart County charge, Norton pleaded guilty with a federal court grand jury to one count of receiving “one or more firearms while being under indictment for a crime punishable by more than a year of imprisonment, that had traveled through interstate or foreign commerce.”

The count comes from an initial indictment dated March 13, 2019. Norton pleaded guilty in April 2019.

Norton was sentenced on July 23, 2019, to time served and two years supervised release with four months of home detention. The case was reopened on a probation violation on Aug. 27, 2020.

Upon conviction, Norton was required to forfeit any firearms and ammunition involved in the offense, which according to court documents, included a 9mm semi-automatic Taurus PT111 G2C pistol, a 9mm semi-automatic Kel-Tec P-11 pistol, a 12- gauge JC Higgins shotgun, 9mm caliber ammunition and 12-gauge ammunition.

It appears the probable cause affidavit for the initial arrest of Norton following the shooting at Hardy’s Bar, dated for Aug. 24, 2020, is the catalyst for a probation violation that’s left the Elkhart County case at Hardy’s Bar unresolved as the federal court documents show a probation filing on Aug. 27, 2020, just days after the incident and Norton’s subsequent arrest, which was sealed by probation request.

In June, Norton was deemed guilty by a jury and on Aug. 4, he was sentenced to five years for battery by means of a deadly weapon, and two years for criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon, with an enhancement of three years and credit time to be calculated, although the murder case remains open awaiting retrial scheduled for Jan. 23, 2023.

Weeks later, on Aug. 22, the federal court filed a motion for a “Writ of Habeas Corpus, ad prosequendum,” a motion which would ultimately allow Norton to be transferred from the Indiana Department of Correction back to the federal prison. On Sept. 7, the initial violation hearing was held before Judge Michael G. Gotsch, who had been the judge in the original federal case.

Now, it appears, with a federal probation violation on his hands, Norton is not allotted contact with his attorney nor able to meet via teleconference to appear in Elkhart County court without special permission or “writ” from the federal judge.

Still, Norton’s attorney, Kathie Perry, of Baldwin Perry & Kamish PC of Indianapolis, informed Elkhart County Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno that she has intentions to withdraw from Norton’s case, but has been unable to inform Norton at the federal prison where he is being held .

Norton’s trial date remains scheduled for Jan. 23, as Christofeno hopes to get a writ to get him back and close out the case.

In other cases in circuit court:

—Jonathan Sesmas entered into a plea agreement days ahead of his scheduled trial. Sesmas is accused of a Level 2 felony count of attempted murder and a Level 5 felony count of criminal recklessness.

Sesmas allegedly shot a man in the back outside the Neighborhood Convenience Store, 1712 Oakland Ave., in Elkhart on June 16, 2020. Investigators found at least 16 bullet shell casings between the convenience store, two homes, a church, and a car that had also been damaged by gunfire, according to details in a probable cause affidavit.

The maximum possible sentence for the one count of criminal recklessness and one count of battery with a deadly weapon that Sesmas pleaded guilty to would offer a maximum possible sentence of 12 years. Sesmas was charged with a total of 10 years with the first two at the Indiana Department of Corrections, followed by two years on home detention, and the last six on probation.

—Two Goshen teens accused of killing a man in a Goshen gas station met with Christofeno again in court Thursday for a trial status conference for their Oct. 17 trials. Leonardo Chavarria and Alejandro Briano, both 16, were waived to adult court for the shooting, which occurred at 7-Eleven, 2220 Elkhart Road, Goshen, on April 23, and led to the death of Santino Garcia, 20, of Goshen.

A continuance of the hearing was requested due to active discovery items that the defense believes will impact the trial. The trials were continued until May 1, 2023, with a trial status conference scheduled for April 6.

They each could face 45 to 65 years in prison, along with a $10,000 fine if convicted.

—Tyrice Edmunson was convicted of a robbery from April 2020. He was charged with nine years, plus an additional three for a total of 12 years at the Indiana Department of Corrections. Five years were suspended and five years were on probation

—Robert Keppler was convicted of dealing methamphetamine on Thursday. He was sentenced to 17.5 years, with an enhancement of 2.5 years, and five years suspended.

— Jereme Coleman, who was convicted of dealing methamphetamine in 2013, met with Christofeno in court Thursday with hopes to modify the 35-year sentence he had received. Christofeno explained to Coleman that he had entered into a plea agreement and as such, he would be unable to modify the sentence without approval from the state.



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