Man faces felony charge of firing gun, but not attempted first-degree murder charge
By Joe Beck
The prosecution dropped a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Joseph John Andrews Jr. at a hearing Wednesday in Warren County General District Court.
Andrews still faces a felony charge of firing a gun from a vehicle after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing. The remaining felony, along with two related misdemeanors, is likely to be presented to a grand jury for a possible indictment in two weeks.
Andrews remained in jail after General District Judge W. Dale Houff rejected a request from defense attorney Eric Wiseley to modify his client's bail to allow for his release.
Authorities had accused Andrews, 18, of 735 Megeath Farm Lane, of firing six shots at the home of John McDonald at 762 Old Dam Road on May 26.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton told Houff that conflicting and changing stories obtained from witnesses and the victim led him to drop the attempted first-degree murder charge.
"I don't believe, based on the evidence, the commonwealth would be able to sustain the charge," Layton said.
Wiseley said statements obtained in recently weeks showed that Andrews did not try to murder McDonald, although the defendant did fire the gun in the air.
"The commonwealth concedes, by all accounts, the firearm was not leveled and pointed at Mr. McDonald at that time," Wiseley said.
The criminal complaint against Andrews accuses him of pointing a gun at McDonald and telling him, "I will kill you," in early morning hours during a gathering at the victim's house.
Andrews then fired three shots at McDonald and drove off in a Chevrolet Blazer. McDonald stated he heard three more shots fired from the SUV as it traveled down the driveway, complaint states.
Wiseley said the complaint is missing several important details that were revealed in the subsequent investigation.
Wiseley said his client fired the gun into the air and at one point was in a "tussle" with another, larger man who had his arm around Andrews' neck.
"The criminal complaint, as I understand it, is not what the commonwealth's witnesses would have told this court today," Wiseley said, referring to a scheduled preliminary hearing that was scrapped.
Layton said Andrews still has charges of burglary, arson and larceny awaiting resolution in juvenile and domestic relations court. Those charges were filed a considerable time before the current felony charges, he said in an interview.
In rejecting Wiseley's appeal for a bail modification, Houff said he remained concerned about documents in front of him indicating the magistrate who first heard the case against Andrews considered him "a threat to the community."
"Based on what I see here, I don't feel comfortable doing it," Houff said of changing Andrews' bail.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org