New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | March 20, 2019

Using truck for own purpose nets Lanexa man unauthorized use conviction

By Andre Jones | December 18, 2018 12:09 pm

A Lanexa man who used an SUV without the permission of the owner in a plan to tow his own vehicle has been found guilty of unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Robert Meredith Otey Jr., 36, of the 15000 block of Rockahock Road, Lanexa, was convicted on the lone charge during a contested trial Monday afternoon in New Kent Circuit Court.

Around Jan. 23, William Jones asked the defendant to accompany him to Pennsylvania to pick up a Yukon XL truck that he had purchased. Jones asked the defendant to drive the vehicle back and make repairs. He then asked Otey to repair the vehicle because the defendant had knowledge of how to make fix brake lines. But when Jones went to check-up on his new purchase a few days later, it wasn’t on the property in Eltham where Otey had rented a garage to complete the work.

“I went to look at the truck repairs and the vehicle wasn’t there,” Jones testified. “I tried to call him [Otey] but the calls weren’t being accepted.”

Jones elected to call New Kent Sheriff’s Office because the vehicle was not licensed in Virginia nor had it been inspected. When Jones and Otey eventually got in contact again, the defendant was upset and told Jones that he would not have the vehicle returned until he was paid $500. However, three days later (Jan. 26), the vehicle was located on the property where the work was originally scheduled to be completed at. When questioned by Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory, Jones said he never gave permission for the defendant to drive the vehicle outside of New Kent.

Defense attorney Richard Collins’ cross-examination focused on the agreement between the two parties about the repair work on the truck.

“There was no agreement on where the repairs would completed correct?” Collins questioned.

“No,” responded Jones.

“And there was no time limit on the repair work either?” the defense attorney asked Jones again.

“No,” he responded.

After hearing testimony from responding officers, Collins made a motion to strike, citing case law that alleged that unauthorized use couldn’t have happened because there was no agreement on place or a time limit on the task to complete the repair work.

Judge B. Elliott Bondurant looked at the statute of the case law, responding to Collins’ motion.

“In the case law it said that the owner must have given consent and in this case the defendant didn’t,” the judge commented. “It also says that consent should not be assumed or implied based on a previous occasion.”

Otey elected to testify on his own behalf, commenting about the conversation he had with Jones.

“He wanted me to fix it, drive it, and test it out,” Otey said. “He told me to drive it and see what it’s going to need.”

Otey said he drove the Yukon XL to White Stone to check on one of his vehicles that had broken down. On his way there, the Yukon’s fuel pump had broken down and he had it towed to his mother’s house (where the repair work was being completed) because he didn’t have Jones’ physical address.

But when Bondurant questioned why Otey was traveling to White Stone, a place about a half hour away from Eltham, with the vehicle, Otey offered three different explanations at different times.

“I was going to see my son who lives in Reedville,” was Otey’s first response. “I was also working on the house and I was going to look at my vehicle.”

The judge continued to drill the defendant, asking how the car got back to Eltham. After Otey responded that he called to get it towed, Bondurant inquired about how the defendant accomplished that with no cell phone. That inquiry prompted Otey’s response regarding his work on a home. Otey did, however, said his initial plan was to use the Yukon to tow his vehicle.

In the end, Bondurant ruled the defendant guilty, pointing to stories he had heard from Otey.

“I don’t believe anything Mr. Otey said,” the judge commented. “The defendant’s own testimony was that he was driving [the Yukon XL] to White Stone to tow his vehicle and that meets all the elements of the statute.”

Otey’s formal sentencing is scheduled for Mar. 4.