MOUNT VERNON — Instead of a jury trial or no trial, a homeless man elected to have a bench trial to determine his fate on charges of failure to provide change of address. The trial was heard in Knox County Common Pleas Court and was argued to completion, but the verdict won’t be determined until a later date.
Ryan Llewellyn, 27, elected to have two counts of failure to provide change of address heard in front of a judge but not a jury. The charges are third-degree felonies.
A bench trial is very similar to a trial with jurors, whereas both sides of counsel have opening and closing statements, evidence is presented by both sides and witnesses testify on the stand. The only exception is that instead of a 12-person jury deliberating and deciding that outcome, the judge does, which in this case was Judge Richard D. Wetzel.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nicole Derr opened the roughly two-hour trial with arguments that Llewellyn had allegedly failed to register his new address, failed to give a detailed description of where he was staying after he was released from jail in January 2019 and that he had three registered email addresses but three Facebook pages that were unaccounted for. Public Defender John Pyle’s argument for the defense was that Llewellyn was homeless, had no phone, didn’t understand the registration check-in instructions and didn’t have the passwords of the Facebook profiles and hadn’t since 2017.
Derr called two witnesses to the stand to testify for the state with the first one being Knox County Sheriff’s Lt. Penny Lamp.
Lamp explained that she had assisted in registering Llewellyn as a sex offender at the jail and that she had registered him as ‘homeless’ at the time. She also said that Llewellyn didn’t have a specific address at any time and didn’t call into the sheriff’s office for nine straight days. Pyle then questioned Lamp and said that Llewellyn’s being homeless and not having a phone prevented him from having a fixed address and from calling into the office every day.
On redirect, Derr then specified that a homeless sex offender is required to give a detailed description daily of where they will be and Pyle countered with the fact that Llewellyn stayed in one place during one night, but then was prevented from staying a second night and had to go elsewhere.
Derr called then called Deputy Sgt. Tim Knell to the stand who then talked about the Facebook pages that were registered to Llewellyn’s name and how quickly he had found them. Pyle countered Knell’s testimony by asking if Knell was positive that the Facebook pages were active and if so, by whom, and if one of the three profiles was actually started by Llewellyn or was a fake profile started by someone else. Pyle also asked Knell if anyone could make a Facebook page under any name and with anyone’s photo and Knell said yes.
After the presentation of seven different exhibits, including screenshots of the Facebook profile homepages, Llewellyn took the stand in his own defense.
He said that after he was released from jail in January, he had no where to go and didn’t have a phone to use. He said he wasn’t told to call every day and when asked where he would be staying, he said “Mount Vernon.” Llewellyn also stated that was aware of two of the three Facebook pages but didn’t know about the third and that he hasn’t had access to the first two since 2017.
Derr then told Llewellyn that listing a city wasn’t specific enough for registration and that he had an obligation to notify the authorities of his whereabouts.
After Derr and Pyle had closing arguments, Wetzel said that he would have a decision in the next week.