SOUTH BEND — Court session are drastically shorter since the Feb. 25 State v. Blake ruling tossed out the state’s drug possession law. For the fourth consecutive week, several lingering possession cases were dismissed — at least for the time being — and court hardly lasted an hour and a half.

Pacific County Superior Court Judge Don Richter was present inside the courtroom along with defense attorneys David Arcuri and David Hatch, with attorney Harold Karlsvik present via Zoom. The majority of cases addressed setting pretrial and trial dates. One of which is a high-profile case that will see trial begin later this year.

Michael E. Nolan

Michael E. Nolan was arrested Jan. 26 for four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of an attempted exploitation of a minor. He was initially represented by Karlsvik but is now represented by attorney Wayne Fricke. Nolan was present via Zoom, as was his attorney for a pretrial hearing.

Fricke opened up by informing the court that he has been discussing a realistic trial date with the prosecution and eyed a date in September due to the number of witnesses and extent of the case. He entered an order of waiver of speedy trial on behalf of Nolan, who also acknowledged the request.

After further discussion and the state deciding the trial would be at least six days long, the court set the dates for September 20-22 and September 27-29. Pretrial for the case is also tentatively set for June 18.

Daniel J. Schenk

Daniel J. Schenk has not appeared for most of his hearings due to “technical difficulties,” and his attorney Shane O’rourke has had to either vouch for his client or have him present via speakerphone several times. Schenk again did not directly appear for the hearing, sitting behind the camera as he and O’rourke participated in the pretrial hearing.

Once again, O’rourke requested the case be set over an additional week while promising it would be the last time the request was made. Schenk will appear on March 26, where the status of his trial should become more apparent. The state is reportedly still attempting to work out a plea deal with him.

Kelly G. Coates

Facing a lengthy prison sentence if convicted of first-degree child molestation, Kelly G. Coates and attorney Arcuri worked out a plea deal with the state. He was present from the Pacific County Jail via Zoom for a review hearing which instead turned into a change of plea hearing.

Arcuri opened up the hearing by informing the court that both sides had come to an agreement for a lesser charge which would also amend the charge Coates is facing to second-degree child molestation. He also stated Coates accepted the agreement acknowledging that the state had a “factual basis” for the higher charge.

After hearing the prosecution’s stance and request for the court to accept the agreement, Richter accepted the agreement. As part of the agreement, Coates will spend 48 months incarcerated with 36 months of community custody after that. He is being handed the upper-end of the standard range for the charge with an offender score of 4, which would hand him anywhere between 36-48 months for the amended charge.

Coates will next appear on April 16 for his sentencing.

Ronald D. Wardell

Ronald D. Wardell was one of the suspects arrested during the Feb. 5 drug raids in Chinook. He faces several charges, including possession with intent to deliver and using a building for illegal drug purposes. He was present from the jail for a pretrial hearing and is represented by Karlsvik.

The case was set to go to trial on April 12, even after Karlsvik’s concerns; he expressed during a hearing on March 6 that it would be too soon for a major drug case to see trial. However, the trial is no longer necessary after he and the prosecution were able to work out a deal when he mentioned the state extended an offer and it had been accepted.

Karlvsik requested the hearing be set over one week for resolution and a change of plea and sentencing. Wardell will next appear on March 26. One other suspect of the raids has also reached a deal with the prosecution.

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