GALLIPOLIS — After withdrawing her former guilty plea to aggravated vehicular assault and operating a vehicle under the influence, Lori A. Cotton has reentered a plea of guilty to three counts of attempted aggravated vehicular assault and OVI in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas.
Cotton, 37, Columbus, was charged after her vehicle traveled left-of-center and struck an Amish horse-drawn carriage late in the evening of May 29.
The crash occurred on Ohio 160 near Ewington in Huntington Township and all four occupants of the carriage, as well as Cotton and her six-year-old son were transported to medical facilities for injuries sustained during the crash. Those injured included 41-year-old Andrew Schrock who remained in serious condition for a period of time after the crash.
Cotton was subsequently arrested, transported to the Gallia County Jail and later pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated vehicular assault and one count of assaulting a peace officer.
After negotiating a plea agreement, Cotton previously pleaded guilty on October 28 to one count of aggravated vehicular assault and an amended charge of operating a vehicle under the influence.
As per the original plea agreement, Cotton was expected to be sentenced to a total of five years of probation and had agreed to pay nearly $400,000 in restitution to the Schrock family for outstanding medical bills as well as future restitution for forthcoming medical bills incurred as a result of the accident.
Cotton was scheduled to be sentenced in the common pleas court on November 8; however, on the date of sentencing, both the state and the defendant’s counsel requested a continuance of the hearing.
Cotton later requested, and the court granted, a withdrawal of her original guilty plea as a result of the defendant not being advised that a guilty plea to aggravated vehicular assault would result in a mandatory prison term.
A memorandum filed by Cotton’s attorney, Jeffery L. Finley on November 15 states, “At the time of entering her guilty plea, the Defendant was advised of the maximum potential penalties for each charge. However, pursuant to R.C. 2903.08(D)(1), a guilty plea to 2903.08(A)(1)(a) [aggravated vehicular assault as the proximate result of operating a vehicle while under the influence] requires a mandatory prison term. The Defendant was not advised of said mandatory prison term. Moreover, the parties when negotiating the Defendant’s plea agreement did not account for the mandatory prison term. As a result, there was no meeting of the minds with respect to the plea agreement.
Therefore, the Defendant did not knowingly and intelligently enter said plea.”
A second negotiated plea agreement was filed with the court on December 12 and a plea change hearing was scheduled for December 28.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Cotton pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted aggravated vehicular assault, a lesser offense than aggravated vehicular assault, and a fourth degree felony, as well as one count of operating a vehicle under the influence, a first degree misdemeanor.
A pre-sentence investigation was ordered to be completed by the Adult Probation Department and a sentencing hearing has been scheduled for January 20 in the common pleas courtroom.