A Corbin man, who is accused of trying to hire a hit man through an Internet message board nearly two years ago, got some good news during a court hearing Monday afternoon.
Special Judge Samuel Spaulding indicated that he will likely grant a request by defense attorneys to move Tristan Hall’s upcoming trial for a fraudulent insurance act charge to another county due to extensive pre-trial publicity in Whitley County on Hall’s cases.
"You probably can’t go too many circles in this county that there hasn’t been some discussion. It is not just the newspaper. It’s what you hear at the coffee shop. It’s what you hear at the ballgame," Spaulding noted.
While the trial will be moved outside of Whitley County, Spaulding said he likely won’t approve a defense request to move it either to Fayette County or his home county of Marion County, but instead probably a county surrounding Whitley County.
Hall, 31, has felony charges pending in three cases in Whitley County.
He is charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder in connection with a Jan. 10, 2013 incident where he allegedly advertised on the popular website Topix that he would pay someone $5,000 cash for the murder of Melissa Jones Davis and the concealment of her body.
On March 2 of this year, Hall was indicted for retaliating against a participant in the legal process
In June 2014, Hall allegedly made threats to Allen Trimble, who was prosecuting Hall for criminal solicitation to commit murder.
He has since recused as prosecutor in that case.
On March 2 of this year, Hall was also indicted for fraudulent insurance acts over $500.
On April 9, 2013 through Sept. 26, 2013, Hall allegedly acting alone or in concert with others falsified an insurance claim in order to obtain insurance benefits worth $500 or more from U.S.A.A. Casualty Insurance Company, according to his indictment.
The case allegedly involved a fur coat that a relative had given Hall that went missing and was reported stolen only to be found two or three weeks later, defense attorneys have said previously.
Special Prosecutor Jackie Steele said the decision to try the fraudulent insurance acts case first instead of one of the other two cases was largely a matter of practicality given the limited amount of time he had to prepare for the trial.
"In regards to witness lists and getting people together, the commonwealth is going to pick the one that would be more efficient for them in getting people in here and out before a jury," he said.
During Monday’s hearing, Spaulding noted that if he had it to do over again, he probably would have ordered that the oldest case be tried first rather than giving prosecutors the option of which case to try first.
Spaulding also gave Hall some more good news Monday afternoon by agreeing to release $240,000 of the money that his family had put up as bond in the criminal solicitation to commit murder case.
Hall still has a $10,000 cash bond in that case and a separate $10,000 cash bond that covers both his fraudulent insurance act case and his retaliation case.
When Spaulding set Hall’s bond in the cases last month, he indicated that he would be willing to release some of the cash in the solicitation case provided there were no problems between when he was released and his court date Monday.
Spaulding left the other conditions of Hall’s bonds in place, which include that he stay out of trouble, wear an ankle-monitoring device and not use a computer.
Spaulding did grant a defense request Monday that Hall be allowed to travel to a private investigator’s office to assist with his trial preparation.
Spaulding scheduled a final pretrial conference in the case for June 16 at 3 p.m. in Whitley Circuit Court.