Cases involving a police pursuit and drugs against Taylor Renee Foley of Ellwood City and Andre Shontez Lee of Michigan will advance to the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.
Senior District Judge David B. Rishel refused to lower the jail bonds of Foley, 23, of Skyline Drive, and Lee, 23, of Detroit, following a preliminary hearing on their charges Wednesday in Central Court. The judge then held all charges for the higher court.
He also held all drug and gun-related charges that had been filed against Foley in a separate case after her home was searched Oct. 3 by a narcotics team who reported finding a gun in a safe, 17 grams of an unidentified suspected narcotic powder, suboxone strips and a digital scale, all in her bedroom, according to court papers.
Foley's bonds are set at $100,000 for each of the two sets of charges against her.
Kara Cotter, senior deputy attorney general of the drug strike force team, said she strongly opposed Foley's bond being reduced.
"These are the 11th and 12th cases currently pending (against Foley) in the courts," Cotter told the judge. "She has zero regard for following the law in this commonwealth."
Cotter advised the judge that at the time of Lee's arrest, he was wanted on felony warrants from Michigan and Lawrence County, and she also objected to his bond being lowered from the $200,000 that was set on those charges.
The first hearing Wednesday involved the case of a police chase that ensued after a car driven by Lee fled from Ellwood City police who tried to pull it over on a traffic violation, following a report of a disturbance at Foley's house. The car sped into New Castle and crashed into an embankment and then a pole at DON Services on East Washington Street. Lee then got out and ran, and police later caught him, according to a criminal complaint.
Ellwood City patrolman Matthew Morabito testified Wednesday that he identified Lee as the driver from a videotape that showed him getting out of the car. He reported that he listened to recordings of conversations between Lee and Foley from the jail before Foley's arrest, which indicated Lee had thrown two bags out of the passenger side window of his car on California Avenue during the chase and that Foley was out there looking for them. The conversation revealed that one of the bags was hers, according to his testimony.
The Lawrence County District Attorney's Drug Task Force members recovered two bags of suspected crack cocaine from off the road on California Avenue, and those were sent to a crime lab for testing, Morabito said.
Lee is charged with fleeing and eluding, flight to avoid apprehension, accident damage to unattended vehicle or property, reckless driving, driving at unsafe speed, driving while his license is suspended, and two counts each of possession and possession with intent to deliver controlled substances.
Foley's charges in the case are two counts each of possession and possession with intent to deliver controlled substances. Her bond remains at $100,000 on those charges and she also remains in jail.
Youngstown attorney Christopher Lacich represented Foley in court and argued that no evidence was presented that Foley actually possessed the substance found by the drug task force agents.
"I don't think there is any evidence of that at all," he said. He called it "a real stretch on the commonwealth's part."
Attorney Collin McHenry of Beaver, representing Lee, raised the issue that the criminal complaint and charges were filed against Lee on Oct. 2, but he wasn't arraigned until Oct. 8, which is beyond the 72-hour limit, by law.
Rishel said that would be a matter to be raised in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.
McHenry also argued that the officer who was following the car, believed to have been driven by Lee, was following 100 feet behind him and he couldn't have known whether Lee was the driver. He claimed the officer didn't know who was driving the car and, "I don't find it credible that he would see him in the video. There is no evidence that he was driving the actual vehicle."
McHenry further argued that the substance that Lee and Foley referred to in the jail audio recordings was never identified as drugs. Rather, Lee used a colloquial term of profanity to describe it, and "it could have been anything."
In a second preliminary hearing for the case involving a search of Foley's home, Detective Ronald Piche of the Lawrence County District Attorney's Drug Task Force testified that when the drug task force executed a sealed search warrant at Foley's house, she and her parents and two or three children were at home at the time.
He said that agents learned from the county's juvenile probation department that Taylor was an adjudicated delinquent who had two felony convictions of possession and aggravated assault, which made it illegal for her to possess a gun.
Lacich argued that because a gun was found in a safe in her room doesn't mean it belonged to Taylor, and that other people had been in the Foley house that day. He said no evidence was presented of what the white powder was and that a bag with Benefiber, that Piche said is used as a cutting agent for narcotics, "can be used by someone who has constipation, not necessarily as a cutting agent."
Her charges in that case are two counts each of possession and possession with intent to deliver controlled substances, and one count of person not to possess a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia.