Editor’s Note: In the original published version of this story, published online on August 19 and in print on August 20, the article read that an argument erupted in Perry County Fiscal Court rather than Perry County Circuit Court.
HAZARD—Argument erupted in Perry County Circuit Court last week when a case centered around an ongoing family feud was heard.
Attorney David Johnson entered his client into a not guilty plea and made several motions Thursday morning, including having the bond for his client, 52-year-old Stephen Mullins, of Bonnyman, reduced and having the Perry County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Hansen removed from the case.
“I’m going to move that he recuse his office from this case,” Johnson said to Perry Circuit Judge Bill Engle. “You cannot possibly prosecute one person in district court and then prosecute a different person on the same matter in the same case.”
Johnson was referring to an incident from earlier this year, in which 48-year-old Rueben Holland was arrested and charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, wanton endangerment, and EPO violation after allegedly trying to shoot Mullins as they were driving past each other in a hollow in the Bonnyman community of Perry County.
“I feel like if we get a new Commonwealth’s Attorney in here they’ll dismiss this case,” Johnson said.
The Herald reported on the case in April. Perry County Sheriff’s Deputies had responded to a call from Mullins that Holland was allegedly pointing a firearm at him.
According to Deputy Jerry Burns, Mullins said that while he was driving he passed Holland who was driving toward him. Holland then pulled out a firearm and stopped Mullins, saying he was going to kill him and his whole family.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found Holland’s vehicle overturned in a ditch. Burns explained that Mullins had said after he passed Holland in his truck Holland had put his truck in reverse to follow him. Mullins then also put his truck in reverse, hit Holland in the rear, and Holland was then knocked into the ditch.
As Mullins was driving away, Burns said, Holland allegedly shot at Mullins’ truck, hitting the door.
When the case was brought before a grand jury in July, Holland was facing multiple possible charges; however, it was Mullins who was indicted on one count of second-degree assault for allegedly backing into Holland’s vehicle and causing it to flip.
Johnson argued on Thursday that it made no sense that his client had had to sit in jail for two days, or any amount of time, when he was the victim in the case. He added that the officers involved in the case, who were present in court on Thursday, did not mean for Mullins to be charged with anything.
“They did not want an indictment of Stephen Mullins. They did not want to prosecute Stephen Mullins, did not want him to spend two days in jail after being in the hospital all of last week,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that Holland was currently incarcerated on arson charges related to a house fire at Mullins’ parents-in-law’s house.
“He’s (Mullins) basically had to sleep on his porch because this man has violated so many court orders to stay away,” Johnson said.
Hansen met Johnson’s arguments calmly, stating that it was the duty of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to review the cases but that it was up to the grand jury to decide what to charge who with.
“We are aware that there has been bad blood between these two for several months,” Hansen said, explaining that in this case there were a few issues at the time of the indictment that kept it from being a cut and dry case.
Hansen said there was no police report ready at the time of the preliminary hearing, so all the grand jury could go off of was what the officers had said they remembered happening.
“Sometimes the Commonwealth will agree with the officers, other times the Commonwealth will not,” he said. “We felt that the actions of the above (Mullins and Holland) were incredibly stupid, and actual charges needed to be levied against both parties.”
Hansen continued, saying that another problem was that the grand jury could not definitely determine whether or not the gun shots in Mullins’ truck came from Holland’s gun. He said all three of Holland’s firearms were loaded when police arrived on scene, and there was never a determination that any of those firearms had been fired or if Mullins had access to a firearm at his residence, which was only a few hundred feet from the scene.
Hansen also explained that it was unclear as to whether the type of shot that was fired, a turkey shot, could have made as much damage as Mullins’ vehicle suffered from the range Holland would have been shooting from.
Judge Engle said though he had never heard of a case being brought against one person, bound to the grand jury, and then another person is indicted, that didn’t mean that it was done incorrectly.
“The police report did indicate that the case was against Mr. Holland and then the indictment came for Mr. Mullins,” Engle said. “I had to read through that three or four times to try to figure it out.”
Engle said he did not see any reason to recuse Hansen and his office simply because he may be incorrect, based on statute, and reduced Mullins’ bond to an RoR (release on recognizance bond. A trial date was set for later this year.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.