2008-11-29 / News

Cortez accomplice gets two and a half years

By Scott Rawdon

NEWARK - An accomplice to former Buckeye Lake Council member John Cortez was sentenced to two and a half years in a state penitentiary Tuesday morning.

Noel Joyce, 46, was accused of funneling money to Cortez while he was a fugitive from justice, then lying about his involvement to a grand jury. Licking County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Marcelain sentenced him to two years in prison on one count of perjury and six months for one count of obstruction of justice for a total of two and a half years. He was also fined $1,000 on each count and received three years of probation. Perjury is a third degree felony and obstruction of justice is a fifth degree felony.

"I'm sorry this has escalated to such an event," Joyce told Marcelain. Marcelain determined that Joyce assisted Cortez, 42, who faces 23 felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with minors, one count of providing cocaine to minors, and a felony weapons charge.

Tuesday morning, Joyce's lawyer, Robert Suhr, told Marcelain that Joyce, in pleading guilty to his charges, was admitting that he wired money to Cortez' friend Harold Wise, who accompanied Cortez during his flight, and he didn't wire money directly to Cortez.

Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle said the "evidence was almost laughable" that Joyce didn't send money directly to Cortez. She said there's reason to believe that Joyce had "lots of contact" with Cortez, which Wise substantiated. Van Winkle said Joyce used Cortez' power of attorney to withdraw money from Cortez' bank account. She said Joyce used an alias to wire money to pick up points near Myrtle Beach. Van Winkle said she believes Cortez and Joyce were in direct phone contact several times before Joyce told a grand jury he didn't do so. Van Winkle added that Joyce has a criminal history dating back 25 years, although Joyce always managed to avoid jail time. "Clearly, he has not learned his lesson," Van Winkle told Marcelain.

Suhr told Marcelain that Joyce, who lives at 214 W. Weisheimer Street in Columbus, is the sole caregiver for Joyce's 82-year-old aunt, and Joyce has many medical challenges, including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and kidney issues that may require surgery.

Regardless, Marcelain sentenced Joyce to a prison term.

Pastor Beverly Myers of Tailgate Ministries, who held a candlelight vigil in February to raise awareness of Cortez' flight from justice, said of Joyce's sentencing, "We have a first step toward wrapping up this year's long journey."

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