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story.lead_photo.caption Joey Watts - Photo by Grant County sheriff's office

Authorities are searching for a man who fled the Grant County Courthouse on Monday after he was convicted on an assault charge.

A jury had convicted Joey Watts, 37, on one count of aggravated assault and was leaving to deliberate on a possession of firearms by certain persons charge when he walked out of the courthouse at about 5:20 p.m., said Stephen Shirron, chief deputy prosecutor for the county.

Watts was accused of threatening a woman with a shotgun while at his home on Nov. 29, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit. Chief Deputy Pete Roberts of the Grant County sheriff’s office said the man was out on bond when he appeared for the Monday proceedings.

Despite Watts’ absence, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the man’s firearm possession charge when they reentered the courtroom.

“It’s a fairly unique circumstance,” Shirron said. “One I haven’t dealt with before.”

Judge Eddy Easley agreed the sentencing phase could continue after arguments over whether the trial could go forward without Watts present, the attorney said. The jury sentenced him to a total of 36 years in prison.

The law, however, prevents the court from formally pronouncing Watts’ sentence without him present, so the judge is unable to sentence Watts until the convicted man is back before the court, according to Shirron.

The prosecuting attorney’s office said Tuesday morning they hadn’t yet determined whether to pursue further charges related to Watts’ fleeing.

“That is something we will analyze when he’s returned to custody,” Shirron said.


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