BELLEVILLE – Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn turned into a detective, rejected half of a guilty plea, and held a Missouri murder suspect accountable for a stolen rifle.
“I don’t want people pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit,” McGlynn said at a hearing for Cierra Moorehead of Jennings, Mo., on July 18.
O’Fallon police arrested Moorehead on May 27, 2017.
State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly filed two felony counts alleging she used weapons unlawfully while she engaged in a misdemeanor violation of cannabis law.
One count involved a Glock pistol and the other involved a Zastava rifle.
Yvonne Moorehead of Jennings retained Madelyn Daley as defense counsel.
Daley bargained a plea for Moorehead this year, and brought her to McGlynn.
Assistant state’s attorney Erica Mazzotti told McGlynn that Moorehead would be placed on probation under the election of treatment statute for 15 months.
According to a transcript in proceedings before McGlynn, Mazzotti said, “There would be two gun destruction orders presented to the court following the plea and sentencing.”
McGlynn asked for a factual basis.
Mazzotti said two O’Fallon officers responded to 1605 West Highway 50, looking for an individual with warrants.
She said they observed a Ford Focus and smelled burning cannabis. Levander Williams was in the driver’s seat, and officers found two guns and a misdemeanor amount of cannabis.
She said Moorehead confirmed that the cannabis was hers.
McGlynn asked if Williams was charged in connection with either gun.
Mazzotti said, “He is not listed as her codefendant…I inherited this case. I can certainly look.”
Daley said, “He wasn’t charged. I looked.”
McGlynn asked if Moorehead admitted she possessed the Glock through an aunt, and Mazzotti said correct.
McGlynn said, “What about the Zastava PAP 85? That’s a very serious weapon.
“It’s a weapon that can be easily converted to being fully automatic...I need to know more about where this Zastava came from and who’s going to be held accountable.
“It’s going to be her, a passenger in the car?”
McGlynn said it couldn’t have been in her purse.
Mazzotti said there was a duffle bag and there were items concealing the firearms.
She said Moorehead and Williams denied ownership of the bag.
McGlynn said, “Is that your entire factual basis?”
Daley said, “Maybe it could have belonged to Mr. Levander.”
Mazzotti said, “I could certainly inquire.”
McGlynn asked if it was stolen, and Mazzotti said one firearm returned as stolen.
McGlynn said, “The Zastava?” Mazzotti said yes.
McGlynn asked for criminal history and learned Moorehead had none.
McGlynn said, “If I thought that someone else was going to be held accountable for this stolen weapon…It fires a large shell and it has magazine capacities that can accommodate many rounds.”
He said he didn’t know why the young lady was charged and Williams wasn’t.
He said the state proposed to destroy the weapons and hold nobody accountable so long as she complied with treatment of mild cannabinoid addiction. He said treatment was probably a couple classes.
“That seems very odd to me,” McGlynn said.
“I would suspect that there would be a lot more curiosity about this stolen gun and that there would be a much more serious attempt to figure out what role if any Mr. Williams had in possessing or controlling that rifle.”
He said that as driver, Williams could be held to be in control.
“Suppose he’s a convicted felon,” McGlynn said. “Then we have a more serious issue.
“You’re asking me to wipe all of this clean?”
Mazzotti said, “It does appear that Levander has a criminal history which is perhaps why he was not charged.”
She said he spent 15 years in Missouri corrections for murder.
Public records show Missouri tried him as an adult for a crime he committed at 15.
Mazzotti told McGlynn her office may have decided to let Missouri corrections handle his arrest as a parole violation.
McGlynn said, “I’m not going to wash this possession of the stolen weapon which she probably wasn’t the possessor of.”
Mazzotti said she could run downstairs and see what the story was.
McGlynn said he didn’t want people pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.
“This just seems to me too big of a red flag,” he said.
Mazzotti ran down and returned with a report that Williams wasn’t charged.
“He will be as soon as I get back to the office,” Mazzotti said.
McGlynn asked if he picked up any new charges.
Mazzotti said he was being held on a $1 million bond for murder.
Public records show Williams allegedly murdered Victor Williams, no relation, at a St. Louis intersection last November.
Daley said she relayed the information to Steve Sallerson, chief of the criminal division for state’s attorney Brendan Kelly, trying to negotiate a better deal.
Mazzotti said she just spoke with Sallerson and they would charge Williams, “even though it appears that he won’t be getting out of custody for many years.”
McGlynn said his questions and concerns were addressed.
“Unfortunately, my fears have proven to be well founded,” he said.
Mazzotti said she wanted to withdraw the Zastava count.
McGlynn said, “I can’t say no.”
He ordered destruction of the Glock but not the other firearm.
“That’s to remain in evidence subject to any further charges that may be brought with respect to that,” McGlynn said.
Mazzotti said they could return the Glock to the aunt if she validly owned it.
Moorehead said, “She’ll be so happy to get it back.”
McGlynn signed a sentencing order with provisions that Moorehead could transfer probation to Missouri and the Glock would be returned to its lawful owner.
He amended the order on July 20, writing that the state couldn’t release the Glock until further order.
“Weapon may be evidence in another criminal case,” he wrote.
“Zastava PAP 85 shall not be destroyed or otherwise released from custody or control of state, nor may it be modified or altered until further order of the court.”
On July 23, Kelly charged Williams with unlawful possession of a weapon by a person previously convicted of a forcible felony.