PADUCAH, Ky. – After a few tense moments Monday, the case of Murray State University basketball player Zay Jackson reached a conclusion in a Paducah courtroom.
Judge Craig Clymer accepted a guilty plea from Jackson on charges of one count assault 2nd degree and one count wanton endangerment 1st degree for Jackson’s alleged role in a Sept. 9 incident on the parking lot of the Murray Walmart, where he allegedly struck two people with his car. Clymer, McCracken Circuit judge, then sentenced Jackson according to the terms of the agreement: five years, 60 days to serve in jail, with three years of probation, meaning if Jackson commits another offense, his jail time could go up to five years.
“I think that if this had gone to trial that it would’ve been a lot worse for you in the end,” Clymer told Jackson during sentencing, referring to a reported surveillance video of the incident.
That video, Clymer said, is why he felt the need to reject the original plea agreement in the case between Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship and Jackson’s attorney, Gary Haverstock. The original agreement called for the charges to be amended to two counts of wanton endangerment 1st degree with a 30-day jail sentence.
“I want you to understand ... I don’t like to throw a wrench into things like that,” Clymer told the court, speaking in Jackson’s direction. Clymer took over the case after Calloway Circuit Judge Dennis Foust recused himself the day he was to have imposed Jackson’s sentence for the original plea deal on Oct. 22 in Murray. Foust cited possibly perceived bias due to relations he has in Murray.
That original agreement seemed set until the reported victims of the case, Jason and Alia Clement, both of Paducah, complained that they had not agreed to the terms. Blankenship said attempts to finalize those terms with the Clements were conducted but no contact was made, thereby leading the prosecution to believe the deal was OK.
On Monday the Clements again voiced an objection when an agreement for the assault charge to be amended to wanton endangerment was presented to Clymer.
After the objection was raised, Haverstock said he did not have a problem with the assault charge being reinstated.
“It was close there for a bit,” Blankenship said, feeling his understanding was that the Clements had agreeed to a felony conviction, period.
“I figured that it didn’t matter (to the Clements) as long as it was a felony that was in the agreement. It was just a misunderstanding.
“Now, it’s in the books.”
Jackson had already served 11 days earlier and will be credited with that time.