New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | March 20, 2023

Judge doesn’t buy defendant’s story, Richmond man convicted on felony eluding

By Andre Jones | February 13, 2023 11:07 pm

A Richmond man who did not pull over after being signaled to by a New Kent County deputy has been found guilty of felony eluding.

Sho’Mari Sosa Middleton, 23, of the 9000 block of W. Cloisters, was handed the verdict following a Monday morning contested trial in New Kent Circuit Court.

On July 1, 2022, a New Kent Sheriff’s Officer operating LIDAR clocked a vehicle traveling 70 miles per hour in a posted 55 miles per hour zone on Route 60 (Pocahontas Trail) eastbound. The officer began trailing the car, trying to get information off the vehicle’s license plate before the driver sped up. The officer activated emergency lights and sirens near Premier Auto in Providence Forge to pull the vehicle over, but the suspect accelerated away.

Speeds reached up to 120 miles per hour as the suspect merged onto The Boulevard in Providence Forge. The trailing officer was forced to slow down as the suspect weaved around a semi-truck. The officer was able to spot the vehicle again one-quarter mile down the road as the suspect got onto Route 155 (Courthouse Road) and sped into Charles City County.

The chase continued, with the driver of the fleeing vehicle making a left onto Sturgeon Point Road in the county before coming to a stop at a residence there. The officer was able to pull behind the vehicle and ordered the driver out the car. The driver, identified as Middleton, told the officer that he was driving to a relative’s house.

Cross-examination from defense attorney Martin Mooradian did not challenge the pursuit, but focused that the crime was a misdemeanor and not a felony. Mooradian argued that there was no felonious portion of the pursuit, showing the chase on a five-minute video to Judge B. Elliott Bondurant.

Middleton elected to testify, saying that he was nervous when he noticed the officer behind him.

“I saw the officer and I kept driving because I wanted to find somewhere safe to pull over,” the defendant testified. “I didn’t want to end up like some of these people I’ve seen on the news recently.”

The judge questioned why the defendant ran from the officer. Middleton responded he was moving clothes and other items from his residence in Richmond to Charles City. But something caught Bondurant’s ear as part of the defendant’s response.

“Did you say you had firearms in the trunk?” he asked Middleton.

“Yes, I had three of them,” the defendant responded.

From there, New Kent Commonwealth Attorney Scott Renick cross-examined the defendant and his intentions.

“Did you see the stores and gas stations when you passed by in Providence Forge?” Renick asked the defendant. When Middleton provided an affirmative answer, Renick asked what he deemed a common sense question.

“You didn’t think any of those places were safe to pull over at?” the Commonwealth Attorney asked, emphasizing that the pursuit occurred in the middle of the day.

“I was unfamiliar with the area and I just wanted to go someplace safe,” Middleton responded.

Middleton’s testimony and story didn’t sway the judge as he weighed in on his decision.

“I sat hear and listened to details attentively, and the officer testified that the defendant drove around a minimum of 10 cars,” Bondurant commented. “The court takes judicial notice of that area as it’s a two-lane highway and the businesses around it.

“I don’t buy he was trying to find somewhere safe to go as there were several safe areas in the vicinity,” the judge added. “The court certainly finds that the criteria has been met to make this a felony and I find him guilty.”

A presentence report is being prepared on Middleton. Formal sentencing is scheduled for March 20.