Letter: It’s still a ‘terrible trivial precedent’

This paper printed a news story two weeks ago covering the Commonwealth Attorney’s explanation of why the prosecution of Timothy Overton was plea bargained for lesser charges. To summarize, a man found guilty of assault and brandishing a firearm, upon appeal of his case, was offered the option of a plea bargain of one charge of trespassing, with minor additional annoyances such as court charges (about $411) and two years of unsupervised probation. According to the article, Art Goff, our prosecutor, viewed the plea agreement as substantial. He noted that 90 days in jail “was not trivial;” it was indeed trivial since the 90 days were suspended.

On page 9 of the trial transcript covering the court’s hearing on the plea agreement, Mr. Goff summarizes case facts for the judge. Mr. Goff stated unequivocally that “one handgun was on the bed [and] another handgun was pointed at Ms. Smith.” In defense of his client, Mr. Overton’s attorney stated that he and his client could show they “had evidence that would show he didn’t intend to point the gun at her at any time.” No one, then, seems to dispute that Mr. Overton threatened Ms. Smith with a gun — the controversy seems to surround whether the gun was deliberately aimed at her or not. 

This plea agreement trivializes the gravity of someone using a firearm to threaten another — since the two attorneys involved seem to have trouble defining “brandishing,” we have all opted into a shocking lowest common denominator, misdemeanor trespassing. Mr. Goff’s plea agreement is troubling, at best: He tried this case once quite successfully. Why not a second time? We are all left with a terrible trivial precedent in this county, ironically almost simultaneous in timing with the Navy Yard shootings.

Barbara Kavanagh
Washington

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