Brooks, 47, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the March 6 shooting of his wife, Angela Brooks, 29, of Baxter. Harlan Circuit Judge Ron Johnson accepted the commonwealth's plea agreement, which amended Brooks' original charge from attempted to murder to first-degree assault. Other charges Brooks now has to serve time for include tampering with physical evidence and being in violation of a Kentucky emergency protection order.
According to his indictment, Brooks shot his wife twice near Cumberland after she left work at Britthaven of the Tri-Cities. Kentucky State Police Det. Michael Cornett said in an earlier report that Angela Brooks stated she was leaving work and that Ernest Brooks drove past her, firing into her vehicle. She was struck in the hand and the upper arm.
Angela Brooks, who sustained substantial damage to her hand, was able to continue to drive to the Cumberland Police Department to report the incident after she had been shot.
According to Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson, the amended charge did not change Brooks' jail time. Attempted murder and first-degree assault are both Class B felonies and are punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.
In other circuit court action on Friday:
-- James Christopher Gray, 34, was called in to be questioned for a possible probation revocation hearing. It was originally alleged by Johnnie Hacker that Gray kicked her during a public fight taking place in front of the Harlan BP gas station.
Hacker was also called to the witness stand. She informed the court that she had gotten into a fist fight with Gray's girlfriend at the time, Jessica Helton, and that she was later told by her sister that Gray wasn't the one who kicked her and that he was only attempting to break up the fight.
Gray told the judge that he had been following the terms of his probation, including attending Celebrate Recovery programs, abiding by his curfew, and that he had even obtained several certifications from Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Johnson said he didn't have enough evidence to revoke Gray's probation and let him go;
-- Wesley Skidmore, 42, was found to be in violation of his pretrial diversion. He was sentenced to three years;
-- Bethel Stewart Jr., 44, appeared in court and a motion for his probation to be revoked was withdrawn. Johnson said he was proud of the progress Stewart was making in his supervised probation;
-- Mark Wiggins, 44, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree complicity to arson charge. A trial date was set for Jan 10. When Johnson asked who was his representing attorney, Wiggins said he thought it was Russell Alred.
A phone call was made to Alred's office, but it still was unconfirmed on Friday whether or not Wiggins was Alred's client. Assistant public defender Andrea Poniecki stood in for Wiggins' arraignment. Johnson said if it was determined Alred was in fact his attorney, then he would recuse himself from the case;
-- Mervin D. Weedman, 40, appeared in court on a motion to suppress evidence in his drug trafficking case. A video was played in court that showed what appeared to be Weedman making a drug contact. The motion to suppress was overruled by Johnson;
-- Wayne Browning, 51, pleaded guilty to first-degree trafficking a controlled substance (cocaine). He was sentenced to five years, which was probated through the successful completion of drug court. Browning had been attending mandated drug court programs, and Johnson congratulated him on being an “exemplary” participant. Johnson said he was impressed with Browning's seriousness, his attitude and compliance. He approved probation for Browning based on his performance and good past record. “I'm proud of you,” Johnson said. “You're doing the right thing.”