Berry gets 52 months for sex crimes

In Rappahannock County Circuit Court last Thursday (June 19), a 42-year-old Amissville man was sentenced to 52 months in jail for committing various sexual offenses.

Thomas Roy Berry, 42, was charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of taking indecent liberties with a minor under 13. Berry previously pleaded guilty to all charges. According to the incident report on file at the county clerk’s office, Berry exposed himself four times to an 8-year-old girl between Feb. 1 and Oct. 31, 2001.

Berry’s accuser testified Thursday about the impact it’s had on her life since, including hindering her relationship with her husband. “As a child, I was always told that when something bad happens, you go to an adult . . . I [eventually] told the police everything, and we weren’t helped. We were harassed by the entire community.”

“I just want to make sure it never happens to anyone else because of this man.”

Several people testified on Berry’s behalf, including his mother Helen Berry, older brother Donnie Berry and step-daughter Samantha Smoot — all of whom said the charges were “out of character” for Berry, and otherwise talked about him glowingly.

“Everybody loves him,” said Donnie Berry. He and Smoot recalled Berry being a good father and detailed some of his charity work, including helping out neighbors and family who were behind on their bills. “We love him, miss him and want him home,” added Helen Berry.

“He’s been more than a father to me,” said a tearful Smoot. Berry’s incarceration has negatively affected the entire family, she added — hitting Berry’s teenage son the hardest. Smoot described her own upbringing with Berry, who dated her mother for years, as a wonderful time. “[These charges] are never going to change my feelings toward him.”

Berry’s defense counsel Kirk Milam urged Judge Burke F. McCahill to take the family’s pleas into consideration and hand down a minimal sentence of two years. “The charges are completely out of character,” Milam said. “Mr. Berry is a good father and a good person . . . [and a two-year sentence] takes into account all the good things about Mr. Berry.”

“You’ve heard the anguished pleas here today,” began Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff in a closing argument. “The devastating effects on his victims aren’t offset by him giving other people [free] firewood . . . Even sex offenders have a family, and evidently Mr. Berry comes from a very good one. But he’s guilty of abusing three girls — not one, not two, but three . . . Society can’t condone these types of charges.”

Goff asked McCahill to sentence Berry to 44 months in jail, a time period “well within the guidelines.” Goff also said he believed placing Berry on probation for seven to 10 years would be appropriate.

“I’ve always said that there are no winners in these kinds of cases, and that’s particularly true in this case,” said McCahill, after noting he was disappointed Berry didn’t take the opportunity to apologize to his victim in the courtroom.

“Your family is also a victim, and they pay a dear price . . . Many people that I’ve sentenced have done wonderful things, but you’re not being sentenced on your good qualities . . . You are judged by your last worst act . . . You have harmed children, and that has to be dealt with.”

McCahill then exceeded Goff recommendations; on the first sexual assault charge, he sentenced Berry to five years in jail (four suspended). On the second sexual assault charge, he sentenced Berry to 10 years (eight suspended); and on the indecent liberties charge sentenced Berry to 10 years (all but 16 months suspended) — a total, McCahill noted, of 25 years (all but 52 months suspended).

McCahill also placed Berry on supervised probation for 10 years, followed by unsupervised probation for an additional five. He ordered Berry have no contact with any of the victims, no unsupervised contact with any female minor and be “forever banned” from schools, youth athletic fields and the like.