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Cortez decides to make plea rather than face trial

NEWARK – Former Buckeye Lake Council member John Cortez was scheduled to go to trial this week in two separate trials to face charges of unlawful sexual conduct with minors and felony weapons charges.

Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said Wednesday that Cortez is now expected to plead guilty or no contest to the charges against him and either plea will result in a conviction. “There’s been no agreement finalized to a particular outcome,” said Oswalt.

Previously, Oswalt said that Cortez, if convicted on all counts against him, could potentially receive 115 years in prison for the sex counts, eight years for the drug count, five years for the weapons charge, and he could be fined more than $200,000.

Cortez is scheduled to appear at 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2009, before Judge Jon Spahr to submit his plea. The court will also decide whether to classify him as a sexual predator.

His former friend and business partner Noel Joyce has also decided to plea rather than go to trial. Joyce had been expected to plead guilty or no contest on Nov. 3 to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. That hearing was cancelled when Joyce failed to show for an appointment. He is now scheduled to appear at 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 25 before Judge Thomas Marcelain to make his plea. He will likely be sentenced immediately. Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle said previously that he faces a maximum of six years in prison for both counts.

Joyce’s charges stem from allegations that he helped Cortez flee the area after he learned of his indictment on the sex charges. Investigators found evidence that he personally and also directed others to wire money to Cortez. The perjury charge stems from his appearance before a Grand Jury where he denied providing financial support to Cortez while he was a fugitive.

Cortez faces 23 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with minors, one count of providing cocaine to minors, and a felony 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 from Myrtle Beach, SC in February.

Cortez lost his council seat in August 2007 for missing too many meetings. He was serving illegally since he is a convicted felon. He failed to disclose his conviction to the Board of Elections and his status was never checked or challenged.

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