James Andrew Roark had originally been charged with reckless homicide for his role in the wreck that claimed the life of 14-year-old Bryon Cobb. But on the day his trial was to begin in June, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree wanton endangerment. The plea agreement came about after several months of bitter emotions and confrontations between the two families. Roark had told Harlan County Circuit Judge Ron Johnson that he just wanted the whole incident to be over.
On Friday, Johnson accepted the plea agreement, and sentenced Roark to one year in prison on the amended charge, which he probated for 24 months. Johnson instructed Roark, 22, formerly of Pathfork, to stay outside of Harlan County and away from the Cobb family. He also ordered him to undergo random drug and alcohol testing during the first year of his probation and to perform 80 hours of community service work.
Cobb, whose family lives in Wallins, was killed April 26, 2001, after the ATV he was driving overturned on a steep embankment on a reclaimed strip mine site. Investigating police officers determined the 1989 Honda 300 Fourtrax, which Cobb was driving with Roark as passenger, lost traction on loose dirt while mounting a steep embankment, and traveled backward before overturning.
Cobb's family blamed Roark for their son's death, stating he was the adult in the situation and should not have allowed their son to drive on such dangerous terrain. They were successful in obtaining a grand jury indictment for reckless homicide, but Cobb's tearful father backed down from pursuing the more serious charge when he concurred with the plea agreement made on June 3.
In other circuit court action Friday:
n Gary Cloud, 48, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug trafficking charges;
n Brian T. Jones, 26, was sentenced to five years in prison for first-degree trafficking a controlled substance. Johnson said he would consider shock probation at a later time;
n Harold Bruce Jones, 59, was sentenced to one year in prison for second-degree trafficking a controlled substance. Because of his age and record, Johnson denied his request for probation;
n Frank G. Perkins, 37, was sentenced to one year in prison for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Shock probation will be considered after the first 120 days have been served;
n Jeroney Smith, 30, was sentenced to one year in prison for receiving stolen property over $300. Probation was granted for five years, with the first year being supervised;
- Tremel J. Smith, 36, was sentenced to three years in prison for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, driving on a DUI suspended license, fleeing or evading police, reckless driving and first-degree wanton endangerment. He was probated for five years, with the first six months under supervision;
- Tyrone Smith, 31, was sentenced to one year in prison for first-degree possession of a controlled substance.