A bench trial for a Missouri man charged with possession of child pornography and traveling to meet a minor was again delayed on Tuesday after the judge received phone calls from both the prosecutor and defense attorney the day before.
The trial for Shelby Weston was set to begin before Fayette County Resident Circuit Judge Don Sheafor at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Instead, Sheafor announced that the trial was being continued due to two phone calls he received on Monday.
Weston, 44, of Monett, Mo., is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography that are Class 2 felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison and two child pornography counts that are Class 3 felonies carrying a maximum penalty of five years.
He is also charged with traveling to meet a minor, a Class 3 felony, and grooming, a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
The grooming charge filed by the office of Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison alleges that Weston “knowingly used a computer online service and/or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to seduce (a child) commit the offense of criminal sexual abuse, in that after having knowledge of the victim’s age, (he) continued to have sexual in nature conversations with (the child) and traveled to Vandalia and invited (the child) to meet him in his hotel room.”
Morrison’s office filed charges against Weston on March 24 after he was taken into custody by Vandalia police officers who responded to a local fast-food restaurant for a report of harassment, according to VPD records.
He has been in Fayette County Jail since his arrest on $250,000 bond.
On Tuesday, Sheafor announced that he received a call about 4 p.m. from Morrison, who said he had just gotten a last-minute report.
While Sheafor said Morrison was requesting a trial continuance, Morrison said clarified that he was not, but wanted time to speak with an expert witness about barring some evidence from the trial.
He said during Tuesday’s hearing that he believed that that witness, a state police sergeant, “could be prepped (for trial) fairly quickly.”
Sheafor said that based on those facts, he was probably going to deny a trial delay, “depending on the conversation with the expert witness.”
The judge said that Morrison had been unable to get in touch with that witness and that he wasn’t favoring a continuance. He said that he wants the trial to be over “as much as anybody.”
Sheafor said a second factor in delaying the trial was a phone call he received from the defense attorney a couple of hours after the one from Morrison.
Sheafor said that Weston’s attorney, Monroe McWard, called him at about 6 p.m. to request a continuance due to “a family situation” that would make him unavailable on Tuesday afternoon.
With all of that information, Sheafor agreed to reset the trial for Aug. 29, with a pretrial hearing to be held on the morning of Aug. 11.
Judicial assignments are changing on July 1, with Sheafor being reassigned to civil cases in the county, and McWard asked about Sheafor continuing to be the trial judge.
McWard and Morrison agreed that one benefit of having Sheafor continue as trial judge is his familiarity with the case.
Sheafor told McWard that he could contact the office of Chief Judge Kim Koester to ask about him staying in the case.
At the close of Tuesday’s hearing, McWard told Sheafor that the state’s attorney’s office had on Monday made an offer of an 18-year prison sentence, and that Weston rejected that offer.