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November 20, 2015

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, MARK ALAN DEFORREST, d/o/b 7-30-1957, of Branson, was sentenced to four (4) years in prison for the class C felony of unlawful possession of a firearm, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson accepted a guilty plea from Deforrest which guaranteed him the four (4) year sentence, as part of a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Deforrest had previously been convicted of the felonies of driving while intoxicated and unlawful use of a weapon.

On October 17, 2015, while searching for a suspect in a stealing investigation, Taney County Sheriff’s deputies made contact with Deforrest, at his home in Branson. Deputies discovered Deforrest had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, and when placing Deforrest in handcuffs discovered he had knives in his pockets, as well as one knife hidden in his boot. Deforrest was also discovered to have a 357 revolver with him, in the chair where he was sitting when arrested.

Currently, the Missouri Appeals Courts are considering arguments about whether or not the 2014 Right to Bear Arms Amendment to Missouri’s Constitution allows all persons to possess firearms – even convicted felons. No ruling has been made by Missouri’s higher courts on this issue, yet.

“Although the 2014 Amendment to Missouri’s Constitution states that the right to possess a firearm is ‘an unalienable right’, it is still the position of this office that dangerous felons should not be permitted to possess guns,” says Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell. “The reasoning is obvious. Convicted felons have already demonstrated an inability to follow laws and to use good judgment. Therefore, allowing convicted felons to possess firearms presents a potential danger to our citizens.”

The maximum sentence for a class C felony is seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a $5,000.00 fine.

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November 20, 2015

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, Taney County Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson sentenced JUSTIN LEE CHAMBERS, d/o/b 8-26-1983, of Harrison, Arkansas, to seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the class C felonies of receiving stolen property and possession of a forging instrumentality. The sentences were ordered pursuant to a plea agreement between Chambers and the Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Chambers’ receiving stolen property sentence was the result of his March 31, 2015, arrest at the Good Shepherd Inn, in Branson. Chambers was arrested by Branson Police for being in possession of a 2002 Jeep Wrangler that had been reported stolen to Springfield Police on March 15, 2015. Chambers had initially claimed he borrowed the Jeep and did not know it was stolen.

Then, on June 5, 2015, Chambers was contacted by Branson Police at the Stratford House Inn, on Highway 76, in Branson, as part of a multi-jurisdictional investigation into the passing of several forged checks. Taney County Sheriff’s deputies, along with Branson Police officers found Chambers in possession of another man’s stolen identification card, checks, and a typewriter – which Chambers admitted he used to fraudulently alter checks.

Each of those class C felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of seven (7) years. Pursuant to the guilty plea, Chambers’ sentences will run concurrently with one another.

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November 13, 2015

JIMMY J. HARPER, d/o/b 4-14-1963, of Branson, was sentenced to six (6) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on Thursday, November 12, 2015, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Harper had entered his guilty plea to the class C felony of possession of a controlled substance, pursuant to a plea agreement, on November 5, 2015 – at which time the six (6) year sentence was scheduled to be executed on November 12th.

On July 11, 2015, in a motel room at the 76 Inn, in Branson, Harper was in possession of methamphetamine, as well as components used for creating methamphetamine. Branson Police officers were searching for persons with arrest warrants, when they encountered Harper. After discovering that Harper had warrants and was on felony probation, officers asked him for consent to search his motel room. It was during the consent search that illegal substances were discovered.

The class C felony of possession of a controlled substance carries a maximum penalty of seven (7) years in prison and/or a $5,000.00 fine.

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November 5, 2015

WILLIE DEAN CUMMINGS, d/o/b 8-27-1953, of Bradleyville, was sentenced on Thursday, November 5, 2015, to fifteen (15) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the class B felony of driving while intoxicated. Cummings had been found guilty of D.W.I. by Taney County Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson, following a bench trial held on July 29, 2015. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany Yarnell tried the case for the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

On September 22, 2011, Cummings was in a one-vehicle crash near Taneyville, where passers-by noticed a burning pickup truck and stopped to assist Cummings. Cummings smelled of intoxicants and was cited for driving while intoxicated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Multiple witnesses testified about the condition Cummings was found in after the crash, resulting in the guilty verdict.

Driving while intoxicated, as a first offense, is normally a class B misdemeanor, and handled by the Associate Circuit Courts. However, because Cummings had four or more intoxication-related traffic offenses on his record, he was charged with a class B felony for being a “chronic” D.W.I. offender. The range of punishment for a class B felony is not less than five (5) years in prison and not more than fifteen (15) years in prison. However, Cummings was charged as a prior and persistent felony offender, enhancing his possible maximum prison sentence to thirty (30) years.

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