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Judge: Defense attorney gets "miraculous" dismissal

Becky Campbell • Aug 22, 2017 at 10:18 PM

A Johnson City man charged in May 2016 with stabbing a man — after the other guy reportedly attacked him with a bat — pleaded guilty to a reduced assault charge in Washington County Criminal Court on Tuesday, and his attorney was able to get an attempted murder charge dismissed.

Ross B. Kelley, 37, received a three-year sentence for pleading guilty to felony reckless endangerment. It stemmed from an assault on his girlfriend at the time, Sara Marsh, when Kelley walked into an apartment to reportedly find her and two other men having sex, according to police.

One of the men reported to police that he heard Kelley say he was going to kill them all. That’s when one of the men, Randall Britt, hit Kelley in the head with a baseball bat. Kelley turned on Britt and began stabbing the man, police said at the time. Britt had several stab wounds, including one to the chest that required surgery. Marsh had a superficial cut on her hand and scrapes on her leg, police said.

Kelley was originally charged with attempted second-degree murder for stabbing Britt and aggravated assault for lacerations Marsh suffered during the incident.

Kelley’s attorney, Scott Shults, was “persistent,” according to Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle, in demanding pieces of evidence be sent for DNA analysis at the TBI crime lab. Test results were inconclusive as to who was the first aggressor. That fact, and the issue of witnesses being uncooperative, led McArdle to dismiss the attempted murder charge and reduce the aggravated assault charge.

“The original count, it would be an argument on whether it was self-defense on Mr. Kelley’s part, and based on the fact I don’t have very many consistent statements from the victims there, we will dismiss it,” McArdle said. She said the people involved in the incident were using meth that day.

Judge Lisa Rice told Ross it was “miraculous” Shults was able to get the attempted murder charged dismissed. She asked Kelley if Shults had done all he could to properly represent him.

Kelley said Shults had done more than he expected in the case.

Kelley was in custody on $200,000 bond since his arrest. He will be eligible for release after serving 35 percent of his sentence.

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