2008-11-01 / News

Joyce plea, Cortez trial set for this month

By Scott Rawdon

NEWARK - Former Buckeye Lake council member John Cortez and his former friend, Noel Joyce, each have hearings in November.

Monday, Nov. 3, Noel Joyce is expected to plead guilty or no contest to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in Licking County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Marcelain's courtroom at 8:15 a.m., and Cortez goes to trial Thursday and Friday, Nov. 20 and 21 in Licking County Common Pleas Judge Jon Spahr's courtroom at roughly 9 a.m.

Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle anticipates Joyce will be sentenced that morning and as for Cortez, "it's up to a jury to determine guilt or innocence, and we'll go from there," she said.

Cortez faces 23 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with minors, one count of providing cocaine to minors, and a felont weapons charge. Cortez previously pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has been held without bond in the Licking County Jail since detectives brought him back in February from Myrtle Beach, SC.

Shortly lost his council seat in August 2007 for missing too many meetings. Licking County Sheriff's office detectives 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 had no additional charges and was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. The raid on his home was prompted by allegations of unlawful sexual conduct with minors. When he was first arraigned for the weapons charge, investigators were still sifting through dozens of videos, clothing and bed clothing that were seized during the raid. Cortez was indicted on the rest of the charges Nov. 29, but fled before being served with a warrant for his arrest. He was apprehended Feb. 13 in Myrtle Beach, SC after nearly two months of hiding from authorities. Licking County detectives distributed flyers with Cortez' photo in Myrtle Beach bars. A bartender recognized Cortez and called police.

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

Joyce agreed to withdraw not guilty pleas to the perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Van Winkle said assuming Joyce is found guilty, he faces a maxim um of six years in prison for both counts.

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