2008-10-04 / News

Cortez friend changing his plea

By Scott Rawdon

NEWARK - Noel Joyce is expected to withdraw his not guilty plea.

Earlier, the former business partner of former Buckeye Lake Village Council member John Cortez alleged he did nothing to help Cortez flee Licking County a year ago when Cortez was to face 23 counts of inappropriate sexual relations with minors, one count of providing cocaine to minors, and a felonious weapons charge. Cortez was eventually apprehended in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Following Cortez' arrest, Joyce told a Licking County grand jury that he wasn't involved in Cortez' flight although it was alleged that Joyce provided Cortez with a get-away car and wired him money in Myrtle Beach.

Wednesday, Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle said Joyce agreed to withdraw not guilty pleas to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Joyce's hearing is currently scheduled for Nov. 3. Van Winkle said if Joyce is found guilty, he faces a maximum of six years in prison for both counts. She said Joyce's lawyer, Robert Suhr, would need to explain why Joyce decided to change his plea, but Suhr could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Van Winkle said Cortez' trial is currently scheduled for Nov. 17.

Just months after Cortez was kicked off the Buckeye Lake Village Council for missing too many meetings, the Licking County Sheriff's Office raided Cortez' Buckeye Lake home Nov. 8, 2007, where they discovered that Cortez, a convicted felon - he never disclosed his felony arrest to the Licking County Board of Elections - illegally possessed weapons. At that time, Cortez faced no additional charges and was released on his own recognizance after posting a personal recognizance bond.

The raid was prompted by allegations of unlawful sexual conduct with minors. Cortez was indicted those charges Nov. 29, but he fled before being served with a warrant for his arrest. He was apprehended Feb. 13 in Myrtle Beach, SC. After receiving a tip, detectives traveled to Myrtle Beach and distributed flyers with Cortez' photo. A bartender recognized Cortez and called police.

According to Licking County Recorder's Office public record, March 10, 2008, Cortez revoked power of attorney from Joyce. Cortez alleged that Joyce was using a forged power of attorney to collect rent from several properties he owned in Buckeye Lake. According to the document, "John F. Cortez states under oath that he never signed said General Power of Attorney, and that his purported signature therein is a forgery."

Van Winkle confirmed that Cortez recently filed a civil suit against Joyce, alleging Joyce stole money from Cortez and transferred the ownership of several of his properties to Joyce while he was in Myrtle Beach.

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