A Glynn County jury Friday found a former middle school teacher not guilty of three alleged crimes and couldn’t reach a decision on three others as Tyler James Coen, 25, emerged from the process a free man.
The new indictment on which he was tried accused Coen of two counts of child molestation, five counts of obscene internet contact with a child and one count of electronically furnishing obscene material to minors.
Judge Robert Guy issued a directed verdict on two of the five obscene contact charges. A directed verdict is when a judge determines the prosecution didn’t present enough evidence to reasonably expect a jury to reach a different conclusion. The jury found Coen not guilty of the other three obscene contact counts.
However, jurors weren’t able to reach a decision regarding the two counts of child molestation or the charge of electronically furnishing obscene material.
In other criminal matters, Tyrese Jamaal Holland, 38, pleaded guilty May 10 to two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of second-degree child abuse. A grand jury indicted him in February on allegations he committed numerous crimes over a period of four days in March and November 2018.
He received a sentence of five years in state prison, 15 years’ probation and a $1,500 fine.
Monday, the state Supreme Court has upheld James Ralph Spell’s murder convictions for the fatal shooting of his ex-wife, Amanda Harrison Spell, and her parents, Gary and Jeaney Harrison. But, it voided his convictions for aggravated battery and aggravated assault as the trial court erred by failing to merge those counts with one of the murders for sentencing.
The original sentence was two consecutive terms of life without parole for the murder counts, with 50 years added on to those from the convictions on aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
In July 2007, Wayne County law enforcement found Amanda Spell and Gary Harrison dead in the Harrisons’ mobile home north of Jesup. Jeaney Harrison tried to reach a neighbor for help. She later died from her injuries.
Spell already had a warrant out for his arrest for aggravated assault in an unrelated matter when he committed the crimes, and was under a retraining order mandating he not contact his ex-wife or her family.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett ended up moving the trial from Wayne County to Glynn County because nearly a third of the 300 people called for jury duty knew people involved in the case or already developed an opinion as to Spell’s guilt.
The state Supreme Court also accepted Richard Scott Thompson’s surrender of his law license. Thompson, 61, a former federal prosecutor, was found guilty in January of two counts of aggravated stalking and sentenced in February to three years in state prison and 17 years’ probation.
“Thompson acknowledges that he now stands convicted of a felony, which violates Rule 8.4(a)(2), and that the maximum sanction for such a violation is disbarment,” the court stated in its decision. “Thompson thus requests that the court accept his petition for voluntary surrender of his license, which he acknowledges is tantamount to disbarment. The State Bar has filed a response, recommending that the court accept Thompson’s petition.
“Having reviewed the record, we agree to accept Thompson’s petition for the voluntary surrender of his license, which is tantamount to disbarment.”