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Federal sentence delayed for Shawn Lester

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge has postponed the sentencing for Shawn Thomas Lester on federal firearm charges over concerns that testimony during the hearing would implicate him on murder charges he faces in a state trial next month.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver said Tuesday that testimony federal prosecutors planned to present during Lester's sentencing hearing Wednesday might prejudice the Kanawha County jury picked for West Virginia's murder case next month.

Lester is accused of using a scoped rifle to gun down three people at convenience stores in 2003. Prosecutors say the killings were drug-related. A federal grand jury indicted Lester on firearm possession charges late last year, after investigators in the state's case unearthed photographs of Lester holding a gun, according to court documents.

Lester has a lengthy felony history and would have been prohibited from carrying a firearm in 2007 -- the year federal authorities say the photographs are time stamped. He pleaded guilty to the gun charges earlier this year.

According to Lester's attorney, Deirdre Purdy, federal prosecutors have asked the judge to levy a harsher sentence on Lester because of his habitual drug use and prior "bad acts" they say point to a violent nature.

Prosecutors intend to call Alicia Ramey, Lester's ex-lover, who apparently will testify that Lester wanted to keep her as a sex slave, according to a sentencing memorandum written by Purdy.

Prosecutors also intend to enter an audio recording of Lester telling a confidential informant that he intended to use a stun gun during a robbery, and that he intended to kill his victim if he had a certain amount of pills, according to the memorandum.

Purdy pointed out that the purported victim of Lester's alleged threats, who was not identified in the sentencing memorandum, was not killed or robbed. The federal sentencing has nothing to do with a slaying, just the illegal possession of a firearm, Purdy noted. A stun gun is not a firearm under federal criminal code, she said.

As it relates to Ramey, Purdy said prosecutors have not presented evidence indicating that Lester did anything more than "muse on the subjects of keeping a woman as a sex slave."

"These are all instances that are unrelated to these charges," she told the judge Tuesday.

Purdy asked the judge to prevent prosecutors from allowing those witnesses to testify during his sentencing, which has been postponed to September. Purdy has asked the judge for a sentence in the range of 37 to 46 months on the gun charges.

Lester's habitual drug use apparently is explained in part by a series of open-heart surgeries he had in 2005 and 2006, according to the sentencing memorandum. He became addicted to prescription painkiller medication following those surgeries sometime in 2007, the memorandum states.

Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Gregory McVey said the government has avoided presenting evidence that overlaps with Lester's state murder charges. McVey, however, did not oppose the judge's decision to postpone Lester's sentencing until September.

The second prosecutor in the federal case, Maryclaire Akers, also represents the state in the murder case against Lester.

Last March, police arrested Lester after one of his longtime friends reportedly told police that Lester had admitted to killing Jeannie Patton in August 2003 in retaliation for the theft of a big-block Chevrolet motor from a garage on Rutledge Road in Charleston.

Prosecutors say rare, pink methamphetamine was hidden inside the engine. Patton was killed by a bullet fired from a scoped Magnum Marlin rifle as she stood outside a convenience store. That same night, Okey Meadows Jr. was shot and killed outside another store. A few days earlier, Gary Carrier Jr. was shot and killed outside of yet another convenience store.

A Kanawha County grand jury indicted Lester in all three slayings. The case has yielded more than 75,000 pages of documents, which has caused several delays in the trial.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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