Prison time for gun pos­ses­sion, grand lar­ceny

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty Hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

James Mer­ica, 26, of Shenan­doah, was sen­tenced in Rap­pa­han­nock County Cir­cuit Court Mon­day (July 13) for pos­sess­ing a firearm af­ter be­ing con­victed of a felony. Mer­ica was ap­pre­hended Jan. 2 by Sher­iff’s Deputy C. Koglin, who was re­spond­ing to re­ports of pos­si­ble “road-hunt­ing” on Thorn­ton Gap Church Road in Sper­ryville.

At the time he was ap­pre­hended, Mer­ica was ac­com­pa­nied by Joshua Plum, 25, also of Shenan­doah, who was charged with selling or giv­ing a firearm to a con­victed felon (Mer­ica).

A Cir­cuit Court jury ac­quit­ted Plum of the charge on June 23.

Be­fore Mer­ica’s sen­tenc­ing, his at­tor­ney Kirk T. Milam, called Mer­ica’s mother and aunt to at­test to Mer­ica’s char­ac­ter. Mer­ica’s mother de­scribed her son as a car­ing per­son who helped his girl­friend raise her daugh­ter for al­most five years, since the child was an in­fant. She also said that Mer­ica had been a great help to his el­derly grand­fa­ther, do­ing chores around the house, and also help­ing care for his dis­abled sis­ter, and that he had com­pleted a par­ent­ing course.

She said that on Mer­ica’s re­lease, he would live with her and be un­der a strict cur­few and other rules. Mer­ica is be­ing held at RSW Re­gional Jail.

Mer­ica’s aunt said that her nephew “was very re­morse­ful and had learned a les­son.” She told the court that Mer­ica’s girl­friend had left him, but loved him and would come back if Mer­ica cleaned up his life.

Milam asked Judge Jeffrey W. Parker to con­sider sen­tenc­ing Mer­ica to the lower end of rec­om­mended guide­lines be­cause “this is not a case where a con­victed felon used a weapon in the fur­ther­ance of another vi­o­lent crime. It doesn’t mean that Mer­ica didn’t com­mit a crime, but he was hunt­ing to put food on his ta­ble.” In ad­di­tion, he said, Mer­ica co­op­er­ated with the deputy at the time of the in­ci­dent.

Milam also ar­gued that Mer­ica had an in­cen­tive to straighten up: “He has deep ties to his girl­friend’s lit­tle girl. The only way to stay in her life is to clean up his act.” He asked that Parker im­pose an ac­tive sen­tence with some time sus­pended, “so that Mr. Mer­ica knows he has an axe over his head” as fur­ther in­cen­tive.

Be­fore he was sen­tenced Mer­ica ad­dressed the court. “I want to apol­o­gize for caus­ing trou­ble and I will co­op­er­ate com­pletely.”

Judge Parker said: “You’re record is rough. The Com­mon­wealth would have been right to pros­e­cute to the full ex­tent of the law,” but he agreed that the facts of the case were not egre­gious. He then sen­tenced Mer­ica to five years in the pen­i­ten­tiary, but sus­pended all but one year and eight months; and two years of su­per­vised pro­ba­tion upon his re­lease.

Johnny Wil­liam Pullen Sr., 23, of Fred­er­icks­burg, was sen­tenced on charges of break­ing and en­ter­ing and grand lar­ceny in con­nec­tion with the Jan. 28 theft of cop­per and other met­als from Jeffrey Scrog­gins Jr. and to sim­i­lar charges in the theft of cur­rency from Frances Pullen on Jan. 20.

His at­tor­ney, Kevin Ger­rity, asked Judge Parker to con­sider the lower end of the sen­tenc­ing guide­lines in the plea agree­ment with Pullen and Goff. “Mr. Pullen broke into a garage,” he said, “not a house, and stole to sup­port his heroin habit. He had no other felonies on his record when he was ar­rested.”

In his sen­tenc­ing state­ment, Parker said: “The court has lim­ited sym­pa­thy for one who sneaks in and steals to sup­port a drug habit which you brought upon your­self.” He sen­tenced Pullen to two years for each of three charges for a to­tal of six years in the pen­i­ten­tiary, but sus­pended all but 18 months. He also or­dered three years of su­per­vised pro­ba­tion and re­quired Pullen to pay resti­tu­tion to the vic­tim. Pullen is au­tho­rized for work re­lease af­ter serv­ing six months.

Skkyie Wil­liams, 20, of Culpeper, was sen­tenced for pos­ses­sion of heroin. Last June 7 Con­ser­va­tion Po­lice Of­fi­cer Owen Bullard in­ves­ti­gated a pickup truck that was par­tially parked in the Thorn­ton River near Rock Mills, where Wil­liams and her friends were ap­par­ently swimming. Drugs and para­pher­na­lia were found in Wil­liams’ back­pack.

Be­cause this was a first of­fense, Parker sen­tenced Wil­liams to 18 months of su­per­vised pro­ba­tion and re­quired her to per­form 100 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice. Her driver’s li­cense is sus­pended for six months, but she may ap­ply for a re­stricted li­cense.

GRAND JURY IN­DICTS THREE

A Cir­cuit Court grand jury re­turned in­dict­ments Mon­day (July 13) against three al­leged felons:

• Shamaila Tan­weer, 30, of Culpeper, in­dicted on three felony counts of tam­per­ing with Vir­ginia Lottery scratch-off tick­ets while she was em­ployed at Hills­dale Coun­try Store near Washington. Tan­weer is free on $5,000 bond.

• Ash­ley Dawn Sweeney, 29, of Char­lottesvill­e, in­dicted for al­leged pos­ses­sion of Sched­ule I and II drugs. On May 1, Sweeney was ar­rested on out­stand­ing war­rants ob­tained by Sher­iff’s Deputy M. Dod­son fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in Rap­pa­han­nock County on Jan. 27. Sweeney is ac­cused of pos­ses­sion of a sched­ule I or II drug, pos­ses­sion of a sched­ule III drug and pos­ses­sion of con­trolled para­pher­na­lia.

• Christo­pher W. Sut­phin, 22, of Culpeper, in­dicted on grand lar­ceny charges in con­nec­tion with a bur­glary and theft in early April at a work­shop build­ing in the 13000 block of Lee High­way.

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