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Attorneys differ on David Pruitt

Attorneys this week will argue the appropriate charge in the case against David Pruitt, who skipped the first days of his jail term in Ocotber.

Saturday, January 06, 2001

Attorneys this week will argue the appropriate charge in the case against David Pruitt, who skipped the first days of his jail term in Ocotber.

Pruitt faced six months in jail then for misdemeanor charges of illegally selling fireworks near his Scottown store where nine people died in a 1996 fire. He failed to show at the Lawrence County Jail.

Mississippi police arrested him near Biloxi, Miss., and local authorities charged him with felony escape.

At a hearing in Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Walton’s chambers Thursday, Pruitt’s lawyer, Phillip Heald, argued that the charge against his client should be misdemeanor failure to appear.

The issue centers on what state statutes regard as being in "detention" and when actions of someone sentenced to jail are considered escape, said assistant prosecutor Chuck Cooper, who is arguing the case for the state.

"They’re simply saying we used the wrong charge," Cooper said.

Another hearing was set for Wedsnesday.

"I asked until next Wednesday to see if we can find anything contrary, to keep it a felony," Cooper said. "If not, we will probably agree with the defense and re-charge and see what happens."

The most jail time the state could seek for misdemeanor failure to appear would be six months, he said.

In October, Pruitt and his daughter, Vickki Bailey, pleaded guilty to illegally selling fireworks.

Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge Donald Capper sentenced Pruitt to six months in jail, with one month suspended, and a $500 fine, according to court records. Ms. Bailey was sentenced to six months in jail, with four months suspended, and a $200 fine. Ms. Bailey reported to serve her jail term.