New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | May 18, 2024

Judge gives defendant a break

By Alan Chamberlain | February 27, 2008 10:53 am

A Charles City Circuit Court judge has given a county man convicted of felony marijuana possession with intent to distribute a break by reducing the crime to a misdemeanor. But the defendant has been issued a stern warning not to come back with any future violations.

James Irvin Wright, 22, of 8101 Adkins Road, entered an Alford plea of guilty to the charge on Dec. 7. Last Friday, Judge Thomas B. Hoover agreed to a defense request to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, but not before grilling the defendant on the facts of the case.

Wright was arrested last March 18 after a Charles City deputy responded to a complaint about suspicious vehicles on Adkins Road. After approaching Wright’s car, Deputy Javier Smith detected the odor of marijuana. A search of the vehicle turned up 14 bags of the drug stuffed under the car seat.

Wright admitted to the deputy that he was selling marijuana and had been doing so for about six months, prosecutor Randy Boyd told the court during the trial.

Last week at sentencing, Hoover quizzed Wright about the Alford plea under which a defendant maintains innocence but stipulates evidence would be sufficient for a conviction.

“How can you do that when you tell the deputy you’re selling pot?” the judge asked. “Now you’re asking me to give you a break. Be straightforward with me all the way. Are you guilty of this offense?”

“No, sir. I’m not guilty,” Wright replied. “I never said I’ve been selling this marijuana.”

“Why have 14 bags?” Hoover asked.

“I smoke a lot of marijuana,” the defendant answered.

Wright said he had bought the drugs that same day and had stopped his car in front of a friend’s house to smoke some of the weed.

“So you’re telling me you’re so unlucky you buy 14 bags and that same day before you have a chance to get the marijuana out of the car you’re stopped by police,” the judge said.

Hoover went on, saying he was bothered by the facts of the situation. The judge theorized the 14 bags comprised Wright’s inventory, to which the defendant replied, “No, sir.”

“I’m not real impressed with your situation,” the judge told Wright, “but I’ll give you a break since you’re just 22 and only have one drug offense.”

Hoover lowered the charge to misdemeanor possession of less than one-half ounce with intent to distribute. The judge imposed 12 months in jail with six months suspended for the next five years and suspended all but $500 of a $2,500 fine.

“If you have one positive drug test, you’ll serve the other six months and pay the remaining $2,000, do you understand that?” the judge asked Wright.

“Yes, sir,” the defendant said.

“Here’s the situation Mr. Wright,” Hoover said. “My concern is you’ll re-offend and not take advantage of the break you’ve been given today.

“You don’t want to come back in front of me,” the judge continued. “You may be smiling now, but if I drop 10-15 years in front of you, you’re going to be crying when you walk out of here.”

In another, unrelated case last Friday, a Sandston man was found guilty of felony driving after being declared a habitual offender, but the offense could be lowered to a misdemeanor when sentencing is held in April.

Tommy David Evans Jr., 39, of 837 Grey Branch Road, was arrested last April 13 after a Charles City deputy stopped the car he was driving for speeding. Deputy Frank Crawley testified that Evans claimed he was driving a female friend to a hospital in Hopewell. The deputy told the court that the passenger appeared to be ill.

The woman testified that she asked Evans to drive her to the emergency room. She said waiting for an ambulance would take too long, and she was suffering from bronchitis, a high fever, and dehydration.

After the deputy stopped their vehicle and refused to allow Evans to continue to drive, she said she felt well enough to drive herself to the emergency room where she spent the next eight hours.

Hoover ruled that an apparent extreme emergency existed, but found Evans guilty. The judge said he would reconsider the matter during sentencing on April 18.

Since an emergency existed, part or all of a mandatory one-year prison sentence for the offense could be suspended. In the meantime, Evans remains free on bond.