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Judge refuses to leave case

Circuit Judge John Thurman on Monday denied the state's request that he step down from a case that he recently described as "chicken s---." At this point, only an appellate court has the power to tell Thurman otherwise.

The case involves Richard Chester, a 30-year-old Inverness man convicted Sept. 12 of possession of cocaine.

After the trial, Thurman said it would be "chicken s---" for the state to try to have Chester sentenced as a habitual felony offender, even though Chester has 19 felony convictions.

State Attorney Brad King argued in a written motion that because of the comment, Thurman would not be fair to the state at sentencing.

Thurman ruled against the state, but he agreed to delay the sentencing. That gives King time to seek the opinion of the appellate court, which could order Thurman to step down from the case.

King said Monday that he had not decided whether to pursue an appeal. As for Thurman's ruling, King said "there is little in the practice of law that surprises me."

Despite the legal wrangling over that aspect of the case, Thurman sentenced Chester for various probation violations that stemmed from the cocaine charge.

For those cases, Thurman ruled that Chester must serve a nine-year prison sentence followed by five years' probation. But because of gain time that state officials grant to avoid prison overcrowding, King said, Chester will serve significantly less time behind bars.

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