court report

LONDON - After COVID delayed his trial for more than a year, a Manchester man was found not guilty on sexual abuse, sodomy, and attempted rape charges.

Shannon Collins, 43, and Reona Bledsoe, 37, of East Bernstadt were arrested in April 2019 after being indicted by a Laurel County grand jury in January 2019.

At that time, Collins was charged with four counts of first-degree sodomy, one count of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of first-degree rape and one count of second-degree sexual abuse for incidents occurring from the summer of 2015 through the summer of 2018 and involving three separate victims under the age of 18.

Bledsoe was initially charged with with four counts of complicity to commit first-degree sodomy, one count of complicity to commit first-degree sexual abuse, one count of complicity to commit first-degree rape and one count of complicity to commit second-degree sexual abuse.

Collins’ case was originally set to go to trial just a week before COVID restrictions were placed on Kentucky’s courthouses and trials were ultimately postponed, says his attorney Brandon West.

“We were basically treading water waiting for a new trial date,” West recalls.

Luckily for the defense, Collins was out on bond during that time.

“That’s helpful from a defense perspective,” West said. “Obviously, it would have been extremely unfair to him considering COVID delayed the trial by about a year and a half.”

Eventually, Collins’ trial was rescheduled and took place over the course of two days last week. West says the first day of the trial was mostly made up of some “pretty competitive directed verdict motions” between him and the prosecuting Commonwealth.

“A directed verdict was granted at the close of the Commonwealth’s proof on one count of sodomy,” said West. “The judge dismissed the charge without sending it to the jury,” he clarified. “That count was dismissed.”

The rape count against West was amended to criminal attempt to first-degree rape. West says he also moved for a directed verdict on one count of sexual abuse Collins faced, but that the Commonwealth eventually moved to dismiss it.

West says the Commonwealth called four witnesses in total during the trial, the three persons accusing Collins and their aunt. West called only two witnesses, Collins and Collins’ daughter. West says the jury deliberated for about an hour and half before finding him not guilty on all charges.

“We were really happy with the result at trial. We thought that was the only result we could have at trial according to the evidence presented,” said West, adding that his client had maintained his innocence throughout the duration of the case.

During the final pretrial conference scheduled before the jury trial, Bledsoe accepted an offer from the Commonwealth. In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of complicity sexual abuse in the second degree, the Commonwealth recommended Bledsoe receive a sentence of five years to be probated for five years. She was also ordered to cooperate with the Commonwealth in the investigation and prosecution against Collins. West said Bledsoe did not testify during Collins’ trial.

Bledsoe is also ordered to complete an inpatient residential substance abuse rehabilitation program as part of her deal with the Commonwealth, while all of the other charges against her are set to be dismissed during her formal sentencing scheduled for July 26.

The Sentinel-Echo did reach out to Harold Dyche who represented the Commonwealth during Collins’ trial. Dyche said he didn’t have any additional comment other than what happened on the record.

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