CHARLESTON (AP) — A judge rejected a plea bargain Wednesday on federal gun and drug charges for a Charleston man involved in sniper shootings that terrorized the Kanawha Valley in 2003.
Instead of imposing the agreed-upon sentence in U.S. District Court in Charleston, Judge John Copenhaver said that the deal 37-year-old Shawn Thomas Lester had worked out with prosecutors wasn’t sufficient punishment for the charges.
Lester had been charged with distributing oxycodone and cocaine near Sissonville from 2005 through March 2011 and with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Media outlets say the deal would’ve given him two 10-year sentences, to run concurrently with a 40-year state sentence he’s now serving for second-degree murder.
Copenhaver allowed Lester to withdraw his plea, noting that opens the door to likewise withdrawing his plea in Kanawha County Circuit Court. While the parties discuss a possible new deal, Copenhaver set a trial date on the federal charges for Nov. 14.
Lester had pleaded guilty in circuit court in July to second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Jeanie Patton. In exchange, first-degree murder charges were dropped in the deaths of Patton, Okey Meadows Jr. and Gary Carrier Jr.
Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom gave Lester the maximum 40 years, denying credit for time served since the arrest.
Patton, 31, and Meadows, 26, were shot on Aug. 14, 2003, within 90 minutes of each other at convenience stores about 10 miles apart. Meadows had been buying milk at a pay window in Cedar Grove, while Patton was filling her car with gas in Campbells Creek, both southeast of Charleston.
Carrier, 44, had been killed four days earlier while talking on a pay phone outside a Charleston Go-Mart store.
Each was shot in the neck and head with a rifle.
The shootings initially appeared random and came close on the heels of similar sniper-style shootings in the Washington, D.C., area. Prosecutors later said they were drug-related.
Lester was indicted in August 2011, eight years after the fatal shootings.