In Circuit Court: guilty pleas, sentencing, indictments

Three people pleaded guilty Thursday (Nov. 21) and Tuesday mornings (Nov. 26) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court; three were also sentenced during the busy week.

Rixeyville resident Keith Allen Alther was sentenced Thursday for assaulting a Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy — the charge stemming from a confrontation during a fire hall shooting competition in Castleton last Oct. 19.

According to court documents, deputy Charles Baker approached a car that 32-year-old Alther was driving. Alther is accused of telling Baker he was “going to kill him,” after which Baker pulled Alther from his vehicle and handcuffed him.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said he had spoken with Alther’s new counsel, Peter Hansen (who replaced Marie Washington as Alther’s representative after Washington recused herself due to threatening comments she said Alther made toward her), and had come to a sentencing agreement.

Goff petitioned Judge Jeffrey W. Parker to lean slightly beneath the sentencing guidelines when making his decision, asking for five years in jail (with all but six months suspended) and two years of supervised probation.

Speaking on his client’s behalf, Hansen admitted Alther had “had a complete meltdown” last October, but claimed that he has since “responded well to [mental health and anger] treatment . . . and has been staying out of trouble.” Hansen also asked Parker to follow the agreed-upon plea agreement.

“These kinds of cases cause the court great concern,” admitted Parker. “An assault on a police officer is serious business in this court . . . I see you’ve been trying to address some of your issues, Mr. Alther . . . I think the agreement is appropriate in this case, but you’re going to have a lot of time hanging over your head.”

Parker then agreed to follow the plea agreement, with the conditions that Alther consume no alcohol and attend mental health seminars during his probationary period. Alther was subsequently remanded into RCSO custody.

In the first of two sentences handed down Tuesday morning, 27-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Thompson pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and received a year in jail.

Goff said that Thompson, of Washington, stole a 1989 blue and yellow Ford F-350 from the Rappahannock County School Board offices on July 27, 2012. She then drove the truck east onto U.S. 211 and was arrested in Manassas by Prince William County Sheriff’s Office deputies. The truck, Goff said, was recovered and did not require restitution.

New (to Rappahannock County Circuit Court) Judge Stephen E. Sincavage then sentenced Thompson to one year in jail (10 months suspended), placed her on two years of supervised probation, revoked her license for 60 days and forbade her from being on Rappahannock County Public Schools’ property.

Also sentenced Tuesday morning was Front Royal resident Albert Wayne Gatewood, 56, who pleaded guilty to habitually driving without a license on Sept. 5. This is Gatewood’s third offense — the other two were Nov. 6, 1999 and Oct. 31, 2005 — classifying him as a “habitual” offender.

Goff said that RCSO Deputy Christopher Koglin observed Gatewood pull out of the Quicke Mart on U.S. 211 on Feb. 25 driving a silver Honda “with an exceptionally loud exhaust.” Koglin pulled the car over and discovered Gatewood’s previous offenses.

Sincavage sentenced Gatewood to five years in jail (all but 14 months suspended) and placed him on two years of supervised probation (followed by three years of unsupervised probation). After repeatedly warning Gatewood that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle was a felony offense for him, Sincavage said: “Good luck to you, Mr. Gatewood, and I hope we don’t see you here again.”

Guilty plea in Pullen crash

Though his case was originally scheduled for a trial, Rocky Lee Pullen instead pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle Thursday morning.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Goff said that last April 14 Pullen had taken a 1987 Chevrolet Blazer belonging to his parents, Karen and Roy Lee Pullen of Washington. Described as a “restoration project” and Roy’s “pride and joy,” Goff said the 23-year-old Pullen didn’t have permission to drive the vehicle.

Not long after taking the vehicle, Goff said Pullen hit a tree on Keyser Run Road, resulting in $3,600 worth of damage. Speed was the primary cause of the crash, Goff said, and though alcohol “was a factor,” Pullen wasn’t charged with a DUI because more than three hours had passed since its consumption and it was no longer in his system. Pullen’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Tuesday morning, Front Royal resident Lisa Michelle Spencer, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing oxycodone with the intent to manufacture. Summarizing evidence, Goff said Spencer was serving as a housekeeper in Chester Gap on May 10, when she knocked over her employer’s purse and “heard the rattling of pills inside.”

Goff said Spencer then took the pills and headed to Front Royal, where she traded some of them for car parts and repair work. RCSO deputy Chris Koglin questioned her shortly thereafter; she immediately admitted to taking the pills and turned over the remaining 12. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 16.

Grand jury indictments

Three people were indicted on various charges by a grand jury convened Nov. 13.

Ahmed Safwat Moharam, who was late to his last hearing on Nov. 13, is charged with one count of possessing oxycodone. His case was continued to Dec. 5.

Baltimore resident Phillip Lee Brown is charged with one felony count of “carnally knowing” a child, identified as J.L. His case was also continued to Dec. 5.

Lastly, Phillip Keith Butler, 52, of Washington, is charged with driving under the influence, his third offense within 10 years and subsequently a felony. Deputy Brandon Smoot arrested Butler on April 18 after observing his car sitting at the intersection of Lee Highway and Viewtown Road.

Harmony Manor suit filed

Harmony Manor’s neighbors — Allan Rexinger, Pat Choate, Brian and Brigette Schultz and Janice Jenkins — formally filed an appeal of the Board of Zoning Appeals’ (BZA) recent decision to grant the B&B three extra rooms, despite the neighbors’ objections and recommendations of denial from County Administrator John McCarthy and the county’s planning commission.

Others named in the suit include the B&B’s owners, Randall and Kimberly Fort, supervisor chairman Roger Welch, McCarthy and BZA chairman Robert Weinberg. The complaint alleges “negative visual and environmental impacts, as well as excessive auditory pollution and traffic congestion.”