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November 29, 2012

New trials set in forgery cases

GREENVILLE — A local man will be tried again on at least five counts, after pleading guilty last year in connection with an eight-month string of writing hot checks and creating fake IDs.

The state’s highest appeals court ruled earlier this year that the prison sentences given to James Timothy Bonham of Greenville were illegal.

During a hearing Monday in the 354th District Court, Judge Richard A. Beacom set jury selection for Jan. 14, 2013 for Bonham on five counts of forgery by passing a check. One count of delivery/manufacture of a counterfeit instrument was dismissed, although the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office indicated it would refile the case.

The status of more than a dozen remaining counts was not immediately known.

Bonham was originally indicted on 19 felony counts of forgery and fraud related to what prosecutors claimed was a scheme to bilk multiple victims out of several thousand dollars. He entered guilty pleas in March 2011 and was sentenced to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on 18 of the charges.

Bonham allegedly manufactured four fake driver’s licenses and/or identification cards, which he used to cash, or attempt to cash, 15 forged checks ranging from $35 to more than $3,000 between Dec. 4, 2009 and Aug. 18, 2010.

A total of 16 of the indictments were each punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of up to two years in a state jail, with three of the charges punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The maximum punishments for some of the indictments were enhanced up 20 years in prison, due to Bonham’s previous criminal record.

The indictments indicated that Bonham had four prior felony convictions on his record, including two for forgery and one each for burglary of a building and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Bonham was convicted of 13 charges of forgery, four charges of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information, and one charge of manufacture with intent to sell a counterfeit instrument and was sentenced to 20 years in prison on each charge.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had previously asked the court to review 17 of the convictions and provide findings of fact and conclusions of law.

In an opinion issued Aug. 22, the appeals court said that it was granting the new trials for Bonham, which was in agreement with the trial court and the prosecutors on the case.

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