Judges take multiple pleas; BFD performs elevator rescue


BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Circuit Court had a docket full of plea hearings scheduled Wednesday that concluded with a quick rescue from the courthouse elevator by the Buckhannon Fire Department.

Judge Jake Reger and Judge Kurt Hall presided over the Circuit Court hearings of multiple defendants who appeared in person and via video from Tygart Valley Regional Jail. Joseph Ryan Tomasula, age 20, appeared in front of Judge Reger with his attorney, Steve Nanners. Tomasula was charged following events that occurred in early August of 2020. The defendant entered a guilty plea to a reckless driving charge. Tomasula was allegedly clocked on radar exceeding speeds of 100 mph on Route 33 late one night.

“I was driving on Route 33 speeding, and I flew past an officer located in the median. I knew he couldn’t catch me, so I didn’t stop but let off the throttle and turned onto Brushy Fork Road where I left my car at a buddy’s garage. I called my father, who advised I turn myself into the local office. I turned myself in that night,” Tomasula explained to Judge Reger.

Tomasula was adjudicated guilty and placed on supervised probation for one year, during which time he shall not violate any driving laws. If the defendant violates his probation, a sentence of 1 to 5 years will be imposed. Terms of probation were detailed for the defendant who responded by asking, “Are they negotiable?” Judge Reger and Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Hinkle seemed caught off guard by the defendant’s inquiry. “Not really,” giggled Judge Reger.

Joshua Elton Shipman, age 46, also appeared in person with Judge Hall presiding. Represented by Thomas Prall, the defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the charges of fleeing with reckless indifference, fleeing on foot, third offense driving revoked, and forging a valid license and registration. With a not plea entered, jury selection was set for December 13, 2021 at the courthouse; however, jury selection will be held December 10 if moved to The Event Center at Brushy Fork. The pre-trial conference was scheduled for December 8, with a trial to be held between December 14 and 30.

Bail was reinstated for the defendant, as well as home confinement. Shipman was released from custody at the courthouse and will follow up with the home confinement office pending further order of the Court.

After finishing with proceedings for the day, officials from the courthouse were unable to use the elevator as at least one individual was reportedly stuck within. BFD firefighters were able to quickly let the trapped person(s) out of the elevator.

Watch for more updates following other cases in future editions of The Record Delta.

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