After witnesses refuse to testify, charges dismissed against New Kent man
With one witness refusing to come to court and another pleading the fifth amendment on the stand, a New Kent man had two charges dropped during a Monday afternoon contested trial in New Kent Circuit Court.
Christopher Thomas Batkins, 26, of the 3600 block of Hopewell Road, saw one charge each of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm by a nonviolent felon dismissed after motions to strike were granted by Judge B. Elliott Bondurant.
On March 31 around 2:30 a.m., conservation police officer Krista Adams was on a special assignment at North Berry Plantation in the northwestern part of New Kent. There, she sat in her car and waited as incidents of deer being hunted illegally during the nighttime hours. The officer heard a gunshot rang out before she noticed two vehicles driving on the road. The officer trailed the two vehicles as they pulled into a driveway. While the lead car pulled to the side, the second car moved ahead before pulling to a halt.
“The vehicle came to a halt and I saw two passengers walk away from the vehicle,” Adams testified. “I told them to stop and they paused before returning to the vehicle.”
The officer continued testifying, identifying one of the passengers at Batkins. With concern about hearing the gunshot, Adams received permission from Zachary Simmons, the driver of the vehicle, to search the vehicle. The officer found two nine-millimeter cartridges and an unused round in the vehicle.
Soon after, a state trooper and another New Kent officer arrived on the scene. Adams pointed to an area where Batkins and the other passenger had walked to after exiting the car. The trooper and deputy walked to the field, recovering a Glock 9mm pistol. According to Adams, the defendant said they knew they shouldn’t have been riding in the car due to him being a convicted felon and near an ammunition or gun.
But Simmons took the stand, saying that he told the officer that night the gun and ammunition belonged to him. When Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory asked Simmons where each of his passengers were sitting, he said he didn’t know. Gregory continued, asking if he saw the defendant fire the weapon. Despite having immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony, Simmons pleaded the fifth amendment.
After hearing arguments from all lawyers, Bondurant commented that the defendant did not have to answer Gregory’s questions as the possibility of the witness being charged federally. Gregory reluctantly moved on to closing arguments. However, with no evidence that Batkins handled the firearm nor he having ownership of both the weapon and ammunition, all charges were dropped.
But before the defendant left, Bondurant sent a warning to Batkins.
“You must have some really good friends,” the judge commented. “But I am telling you this, with your kind of record, I don’t want to see you in this courtroom again.”
In other circuit court cases:
–Zachary Allen Amory, 23, currently of Henrico Jail East, entered a guilty plea to an amended charge of malicious wounding (originally aggravated malicious wounding) as part of a plea agreement.
In a summary of evidence, on May 11, an inmate was using the upstairs phone in the pod when Amory approached him and tried to push the receiver down to end the call. The victim held his fingers underneath to prevent that and Amory walked away momentarily before returning and punching the victim on the side of his face. The victim fell to the ground before Amory was pulled away by another prisoner. Moments later, Amory slipped the grasp and kicked the victim in his face while he was laying on the floor, causing severe injuries that included fractures to the face.
Under the agreement, Amory received a 20-year prison sentence with 15 years suspended (five years to serve).
–Melissa Ann Brown, 50, of the 9200 block of Higgins Road, Quinton, entered a straight guilty plea to one count each of distribution of a controlled substance (Alprazolam) and misdemeanor violation of pretrial services.
In a summary of evidence, on Feb. 13, Twin Rivers Drug Task Force used a confidential informant to execute a controlled buy at the Wendy’s restaurant in Quinton. Brown sold the informant 20 Xanax pills. After Brown was taken into custody, she admitted to the crime and said she did it to support her children.
Brown received a five-year sentence with all but two months suspended on the distribution conviction. She will serve a one-month sentence on the misdemeanor failure to appear charge.
–Bernard Allen Johnson, 37, of the 5400 block of Barnetts Road, Charles City, entered a guilty plea to an amended charge of possession of cocaine (originally possession of a schedule I/II drug with intent to distribute) as part of a plea agreement. A charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon was dropped.
In a summary of evidence, on June 19, 2018, a New Kent deputy responded to a business on Golden Wheel Road after dogs were reported barking in an area where a rash of vehicle break-ins have taken place. When the officer arrived, they noticed a car sitting in the business’ parking lot before it accelerated away. A traffic stop was executed, and Johnson was identified as the driver of the vehicle. The officer received consent to search the vehicle and a package with what would be later identified as cocaine was found. Upon a further inspection, a smear of a white powdery substance was located on the interior doors of the vehicle and also identified as cocaine. Johnson was subsequently arrested for having the drug.
Johnson received a 10-year sentence with all time suspended on the possession of cocaine conviction.
–Larry Taylor, 53, of the 900 block of 37th Street, Newport News, received formal sentencing on one count each of petty larceny (third or subsequent offense) and felony failure to appear. During a July 1 trial, Taylor entered a guilty plea to the aforementioned charges as part of a plea agreement. Taylor admitted that on Feb. 19, 2016, he stole lottery tickets from the 7-Eleven in Eltham and he failed to appear for his June 29, 2016 charge.
Taylor received a 10-year sentence with all time suspended on the petty larceny (third or subsequent offense) conviction. He received a five-year sentence with four years, three months suspended (nine months to serve) on the felony failure to appear. His suspended time is contingent that he completes the CCAP program.
–Antwon Dieon Williams, 30, currently of Henrico Jail East, entered a no contest plea on an amended charge of misdemeanor assault and battery (originally assault and battery on a law enforcement officer).
In a summary of evidence, on Apr. 17, Williams was a prisoner that was placed in the restricted housing unit of the jail. The defendant placed a roll of toilet paper on the camera, covering it. Deputies used the intercom and asked for the defendant to remove it, but he refused. Officers entered the cell and asked Williams to remove it, which he did. But once the defendant removed it, he tossed the roll at an officer, striking him in the chest and prompting officers to restrain him.
Williams received a 12-month sentence with eight months suspended (four months to serve).