Prosecutor proceeding on all felony charges against Carter
New Kent County’s prosecutor has no plans to drop any of five felony charges lodged against John Steven Carter, the reputed drug dealer at the center of a botched robbery and fatal shooting in Lanexa back in October 2008. In fact, Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory added a sixth felony count on Monday.
As expected on Monday, a New Kent Circuit Court grand jury indicted Carter, 57, on one count of manufacturing marijuana. New to the mix is an indictment on one count of marijuana possession with intent to distribute.
And despite Carter’s legal maneuvering to impose a deadline under which he can be tried on four of the felonies, Gregory is confident he can beat the ploy and bring Carter to justice on the entire list of charges incurred in the county.
“Our only possible jam is getting our witnesses to court,” he said on Monday.
Carter is being brought back to New Kent today (July 20) from a federal prison in New Jersey for a July 27 arraignment and appointment of a lawyer in New Kent General District Court. Still to be scheduled is a preliminary hearing on four felonies– illegal disposal of a dead body, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and two counts of forging a public document. Those charges, if certified at the hearing, go before another grand jury in September.
Gregory plans to press forward on all six felonies. Only two misdemeanor counts of providing false identification to a police officer stand to be dropped, he said.
Months ago, New Kent authorities filed a detainer to bring Carter back to face the body disposal, firearm, and forgery counts after he finishes his 10-year federal prison sentence. But Carter forced Gregory’s hand by filing an “interstate agreement on detainer’s act” back on April 26, a short time after he was served with warrants on the New Kent offenses.
Defendants held in one state who face charges in another sometimes use the ploy to invoke a speedy trial within 180 days. They are banking on the premise that the wheels of justice turn so slowly that a trial cannot take place in time to beat the deadline and the charges end up dismissed.
Carter has never used the tactic, but probably took his cue from a codefendant in a 1982 plot to steal a M-16 rifle from Fort Eustis and use the weapon to kill a state ABC agent who was the key witness in a New Kent drug case involving Carter’s wife. Carter and his wife, Patricia, along with Robert D. Praml and William J. Benton Jr., were indicted on felony charges in connection with the incident.
Eventually, Carter was convicted in New Kent of conspiring to murder a police officer and possession of a machine gun. He received five years in prison with one suspended for three years on the conspiracy count and two years, all suspended for three years, on the firearm charge.
Praml, a Fort Eustis soldier who stole the M-16, successfully used the detainer’s act ploy to have charges filed in New Kent dismissed.
Gregory is seeking to avoid a repeat performance, this time with four of the six felony charges against Carter hanging in the balance. The prosecutor is operating on the assumption that the 180-day period began when Carter filed for a speedy trial in April, meaning time runs out on Oct. 22.
“But we have found case law that says an indictment triggers the 180 days,” Gregory said on Monday. If so, the expiration date moves to Jan. 14.
“We also have case law that says a warrant cannot start the process, but we’re going to proceed like it does,” he added.
Gregory faces another problem — finding a judge to hear the case. Judge Thomas B. Hoover is stepping down since he prosecuted Carter on the 1982 charges. Thus a substitute must be appointed, which could prove difficult in the face of an ongoing judge shortage. But the prosecutor is confident on that front, too.
“We’re hoping to have Judge [Thomas] Nance appointed and schedule trial in late September or early October,” he said.
Delays in going to trial, such as a defense attorney requesting a continuance, stops the clock and does not count against the 180 days.
Gregory, meanwhile, held back the manufacturing offense, thus that charge and the possession with intent to distribute count are exempt from Carter taking speedy trial action. The defendant will be housed in New Kent and no longer out of state. If convicted on those two counts, he stands to receive five to 30 years in prison on each and up to a $10,000 fine on the manufacturing count.
The firearm charge carries a mandatory two years and up to five while the body disposal count is one to five years. Each forgery charge ranges from two to 10 years.
The forgery charges resulted from Carter allegedly signing Benton’s name on a pair of traffic summonses. The other three charges stem from an Oct. 14, 2008 incident in which four Williamsburg-area teens, one wielding a shotgun, traveled to Carter’s Lanexa rental home intent on robbing the reputed drug dealer of marijuana and cash.
Investigators say Carter allegedly shot and killed one teen, 18-year-old Christopher Greene, with a .357 handgun. The other three teens fled when gunfire erupted. Carter also took off, but not before allegedly concealing Greene’s body under a pile of firewood and a tarp in the back yard.
Investigators not only found Greene’s body, but also a hidden marijuana “grow room” inside the rental house. Officers seized 348 marijuana plants with a street value of over $1 million.
Law enforcement eventually captured Carter on March 18, 2009 in Geneva, Ala., a small town near the Florida state line. He has since been convicted in federal court on drug and weapon charges incurred in Florida and is serving 10 years at a federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J.
Carter is not being charged in connection with allegedly shooting Greene since investigators say he acted in self-defense.