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Halifax police search for child porn offender who walked out of trial

South Boston News
Jessie Coates / September 20, 2017
The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a 42-year-old child porn offender who walked out of court during the lunch break in his Tuesday jury trial and failed to return.

Jessie Randall Coates of South Boston is described as approximately 6’3” and weighing 225 pounds. He may be driving a white 1997 Nissan Maxima with tag number VJU-5498, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The prosecution and defense in his two-day jury trial had wrapped up the presentation of evidence around noon on Tuesday when Circuit Judge Kim White called for a lunch break, telling all parties involved to return by 1:30 p.m. for closing arguments.

Coates, who was out on jail on $20,000 property bond, did not show back up in the Halifax courtroom when the trial resumed.

White issued a capias for his arrest and a second order revoking his pre-trial bond.

Shortly before noon on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that authorities are continuing to search for Coates.

Following his disappearance, the trial proceeded with closing arguments by Coates’ court-appointed defense attorney, James Fairchild of Campbell County, and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kia Scott, who presented the prosecution evidence.

White issued jury instructions and after deliberating the jury returned with verdicts of guilt on all nine counts against Coates. The jury recommended prison time of 63 years for Coates.

A sentencing hearing for Coates will be scheduled at a later time, at which point the judge will decide whether to accept or amend the jury's recommendation on prison time.

The charges against Coates included three counts of possession of child pornography, three counts of proposing sex acts involving a minor under the age of 15 via electronic means, and three counts of enticing a minor under age of 15 to perform in pornography. The charges date to offenses that occurred in January 2015. He was arrested in January of this year.

Anyone with information on Coates' whereabouts is asked to contact the Halifax County Sheriff's Office at 434-476-3334.

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