We asked Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff for his response to letters published on this page last week that were critical of what the writers viewed as an unfairly light sentence and an unwarranted plea agreement for a defendant originally charged with brandishing a gun and threatening a local woman whose house he shared.
“I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about domestic abuse cases,” Goff said. “They’re some of the worst cases I’ve ever dealt with.”
Goff said that while he understands a victim may not always agree with a prosecutor’s decision, he chose to accept a plea agreement in Timothy Overton’s case (commuting his assault and brandishing a firearm charges to trespassing, to which Overton pleaded guilty) because he wanted to be sure to “punish him for what he did” rather than risk a not-guilty verdict in a trial.
“That guilty plea is a big deal for a prosecutor,” Goff explained. “Trespassing is a class 1 misdemeanor — the same as assault.” Furthermore, Goff pointed out that the plea agreement accepted by Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker was actually more severe than the initial ruling in district court. “There’s nothing trivial about 90 days in jail,” said Goff, speaking of the imposed jail sentence that was suspended, pending Overton’s completion of two years of unsupervised probation without incident.
“He’s going to have that time hanging over his head now,” Goff continued, “and he has to be on good behavior, so if he violates any law, he could . . . face more time.”