Man in police chase had been convicted in drug case

BUCKHANNON — A man who led deputies on a high-speed chase through two counties that ended at Jerry Dove Drive in Harrison County could face double the minimum penalty under the recidivism statute.

James Lipps II, 43, of Buckhannon, was found guilty in November of fleeing with reckless disregard to the safety of others, a felony.

On April 20, 2017, deputy Tyler Gordon with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department attempted to pull over the Buick Century Lipps was driving on Liggett Addition. The vehicle almost stopped but then fled, leading Gordon and other deputies on a chase that went into Lewis County and then Harrison County, where the vehicle was finally stopped at the Jerry Dove Drive exit. The chase reached speeds of over 100 mph while still in Upshur County and Lipps swerved into both lanes, almost striking Gordon’s cruiser at one point, according to previous articles.

On Monday, Lipps and his attorney, Hunter Simmons, were in Upshur County Circuit Clerk before Judge Jacob Reger for a jury trial to determine if Lipps was the same James Lipps II convicted in Lewis County in 2014 of the crime of delivery of a controlled substance, heroin.

In that case, Lipps was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison. The sentence was suspended and he was put on probation.

Prosecuting attorney David Godwin brought in three witnesses, including Lewis County Circuit Clerk Beth Burkhart, who brought a copy of the indictment and the certified order from the case.

Godwin also called David Parks, then a deputy sheriff for Lewis County who investigated the Lewis County case. Parks identified Lipps as one and the same.

During cross examination, Simmons asked Parks how long he had known Lipps.

Parks replied, “Pretty much all my life.”

Bradley Tinney, a probation officer for Lewis County since 2001, also identified Lipps as the same Lipps from the Lewis County case and stated he had supervised Lipps while he was on probation from that case.

When Simmons asked Tinney how many sentencing hearings he had been present at since 2001, Tinney replied, “I cannot give you a number.”

However, Tinney said he remembered Lipps’ hearing because of his attorney at the time, David Frame.

Tinney said he also couldn’t say how many people he had supervised on probation in his career.

“Some of them, it takes awhile for me to recall their name,” he said. “I do remember most of them.”

After Godwin rested the state’s case, Simmons also rested for the defense.

During closing arguments, Godwin pointed to the testimony of the three witnesses, which all identified Lipps as the same person convicted of the felony in Lewis County.

“There’s really no evidence before you that anybody but the person sitting before you as the defendant is the same person that was sitting in the courtroom in Lewis County,” Godwin said.

Simmons told the jurors, “The only question you have got to ask yourself is, have they convinced you beyond a reasonable doubt that this is the same person? It’s up to you.”

After meeting briefly, the jury returned a verdict to say they found Lipps was the same Lipps from Lewis County.

A pre-sentence report in the present case has already been completed.

Reger set sentencing for Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. Because of the recidivism statute, Lipps faces double a $1,000 to $2,000 fine and confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one year nor more than five years. Lipps remains held without bond in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail.

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