With jurors unable to reach a verdict on three counts during former Glynn County teacher Tyler James Coen’s child molestation trial in May, the District Attorney’s Office chose to take a second try at the case, which is tentatively scheduled now for late August.
Prosecutors allege Coen used his position as a teacher to coerce underage boys to participate in criminal acts for his sexual gratification. In May, Superior Court Judge Robert Guy ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to give two of the charges to the jury — both were counts of obscene internet contact with a child — and issued a directed verdict. The jury then returned not-guilty verdicts on three more counts of obscene internet contact.
However, jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the two child molestation counts, or the one count of electronically furnishing obscene material to minors. Those are the matters still to be resolved.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Buscemi said prosecutors want to use allegations of Coen’s conduct toward four different boys, even though he was found not guilty regarding three of them. Buscemi said these allegations can still be used as evidence of other acts because the standard of proof is different.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson added that Coen opened the door to this by way of his testimony during the first trial.
Judge Roger Lane, who presided over Monday’s hearing, will make a ruling on whether prosecutors can go forward with that evidence in the trial, which will be presided over by Judge Stephen Kelley.
Conventional wisdom in the courtroom was that jury selection for the second trial, considering the amount of publicity that’s come before it, will not be easy.
In other matters, Gary Wayne Watts pleaded guilty to one count of violation of the state Racketeer- Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act, for scamming five different people out of thousands of dollars under the auspices of providing new air conditioning units.
He was sentenced to 20 years probation, 180 days of which is to be served in a probation detention facility. However, if a PDC is unable to take him because of his health problems, he’ll serve the detention time in the county jail. He must turn himself in to the PDC by Sept. 1.
Watts also has to reimburse his victims a total of $12,786.61.
Two cases involving narcotics also led to action by prosecutors because of the fallout from the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team scandal. Randy Gene Greene pleaded guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and received a sentence of 10 years probation and a $1,500 fine. Prosecutors are dismissing an unindicted case against Greene that ended up scandal-tainted.
Elizabeth Ann Willis pleaded guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and received a sentence of eight years in prison, 17 years’ probation and a $2,500 fine. Several of the other counts in that indictment were, according to the prosecution, also tainted by the GBNET scandal. In exchange for the plea, all of Willis’ other charges will be dropped, including two other pending cases, of which the GBNET matter also figured.
Johnson said this was an unusual situation, in that the state wouldn’t have agreed to such a low sentence in the deal if parts of the case weren’t already compromised. Defense attorney Katie Willcox Williams said she believed the defense could have given the state a run for its money if the matter went to trial but that after careful consideration, Willis decided to take the plea.