NK man pleads guilty in CC
A New Kent County man has pleaded guilty in Charles City Circuit Court to a charge of shooting into an occupied vehicle. But a right to appeal the guilty plea is being reserved after a motion to dismiss the charge on grounds of double jeopardy was turned down by the court.
Terms of a plea deal reached on March 14 reduced a malicious shooting at an occupied vehicle charge against Kevin Lamont Armstead, 24, of 7160 Olivet Church Road, to unlawful shooting into an occupied vehicle.
The charge stemmed from a Sept. 24, 2006 incident in which Armstead and a carload of friends drove on to property owned by James B. Black with the intent of going fishing. Black encountered the group, accused them of trespassing, and told them to leave. Black then followed the group in his pickup truck as they drove away.
But on reaching the edge of Black’s land, prosecutor Rob Tyler told the court, the car stopped. One of the passengers got out and began exchanging words with Black. The argument ended and Black was backing up and turning around in his pickup when Armstead emerged and fired several shots from a .22 caliber revolver at the pickup. One bullet penetrated the pickup’s rear window, but Black, who was not armed, was not injured.
Last July 20, a jury found Armstead guilty of assault and brandishing a firearm. The jury reduced what had been an attempted murder charge to assault and recommended two years in prison plus a $5,000 fine.
Before last week’s trial, Armstead’s attorney, Mary K. Martin, sought to have the latest shooting charge dismissed, citing double jeopardy since the jury did not find her client guilty of any malicious attempt. Judge Thomas B. Hoover ruled, however, that the case would go forward on an unlawful shooting into an occupied vehicle count.
After accepting the plea deal, Hoover questioned the defendant on aspects of the incident. Armstead told the judge he got out of the vehicle and fired shots to protect his friend.
“Did you see any weapon Mr. Black had?” the judge asked.
“No, sir,” the defendant replied.
Armstead said another man in the car had handed him the pistol. He said he drank a cup of vodka earlier and wasn’t thinking at the time of the incident.
Hoover pressed Armstead on how Black could have posed a threat. Armstead claimed he fired three shots, but was aiming at the ground instead of the truck. He said he did not see where the bullets struck and later threw the weapon into a body of water.
Armstead faces up to five years in prison when sentencing is held in May.
In another, unrelated case on March 14, a Charles City woman pleaded guilty to a felony charge of failure to appear in court. As part of a plea deal, a felony count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle was dropped.
Karen Louise Barker, 40, of 9201 Willcox Neck Road, faces up to five years in prison on the failure to appear charge when sentencing takes place in May.
Events started last July 14 when Barker borrowed a 1999 GMC pickup from Harold Reynolds and failed to return the vehicle within a specified time period, Tyler told the court. Reynolds found the truck a few days later parked elsewhere on his property.
When asked by Hoover why the unauthorized use charge was being dropped, Tyler replied, “I think theoretically I could have proved it, but the victim did not want to go forward.”
Barker, meanwhile, was scheduled to appear in court on the charge on Oct. 18 but failed to show. She remains free on bond until the sentencing date.