Circuit Judge James Mazzone officiated at the wedding of Misty Johnson and Kevin Felder just moments after Mazzone sentenced Felder to five to 18 years in prison for robbery.
Asked to comment on the unfortunate circumstances surround the marriage, Felder said, “It is a decision between the two of us. I am sorry for what I did, and I want to be a better man when I come home.”
After saying goodbye to her new husband as he was escorted from the courtroom, the bride tearfully offered her assessment of the situation.
“I love him that much,” she said. “That’s all I can say.”
Felder, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit rather than a tuxedo, asked Mazzone if he could have his handcuffs removed during the wedding ceremony. The judge declined.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that,” Mazzone said. “You are in custody.”
Felder was escorted out of the courtroom moments after the couple exchanged wedding vows.
During the criminal hearing, Felder pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree robbery. Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Steven Vogrin said Felder robbed the Wheeling Island Convenient store on Sept. 5.
“He placed the fear of bodily harm into the clerk,” Vogrin said. “He reached his hand in the cash register and when she touched his hand, Mr. Felder told her to, ’Let go or I will kill you.’”
Vogrin said Felder fled the store with $340 in cash.
During the sentencing phase of the hearing, Vogrin said Felder committed the robbery while he was on probation for a July 20 domestic violence offense involving Johnson, his then-girlfriend. Vogrin said as part of the plea agreement, the state would not seek recidivist status against Felder, who has two previous felony convictions and could have been facing life in prison.
Prior to sentencing, Felder told the court, “I am sorry for the things I did. I know I have to pay a cost.”
Defense attorney Martin Sheehan told Mazzone he believed Felder was truly remorseful for his actions.
“This was not something he had planned,” Sheehan said. “It was an impulsive act.”
Another defense attorney, Frank Lash, ask Mazzone to recommend Felder be sentenced to a penal facility as close as possible to Pittsburgh, Pa., to accommodate family members who want to visit him. Mazzone said he has no control over where prisoners serve time, but added he would make a recommendation as part of the record.
But Thursday’s nuptials did not mark the first time a wedding followed a sentencing in Ohio County.
On Sept. 5, 2003, Circuit Judge Arthur Recht performed a similar marriage ceremony after sentencing David Appleby to life in prison. The Appleby sentence became a matter of West Virginia case law reference after the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Recht’s decision that third-offense driving under the influence of alcohol is a violent crime.
(Photo by Fred Connors)
Exchanging wedding vows Thursday before Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone are Misty Johnson and Kevin Felder, who was sentenced to prison for robbery.