High-profile cases end in prison time

Michael Raymond Doyle, 50, of Washington, was sentenced to 13 months in prison last week for eluding police and damaging a dwelling in December.

Doyle has been in custody since the brief high-speed pursuit along U.S. 211 by police Dec. 11 that ended when Doyle drove his pickup into an unoccupied house near Union Bank & Trust. (Earlier this year, in connection with the same incident, he pleaded guilty in district court to DWI — his second offense within five years — and driving a vehicle without a court-ordered breath-interlock device, and was sentenced to 24 months with all but 2 months suspended, had his license suspended for three years, and ordered to pay $1000 fine.)

At his sentencing last Friday (June 19) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court, Doyle testified that leading up to the incident he had been depressed and suicidal, having tried to kill himself twice before. Under questioning from his attorney Frank Reynolds, Doyle said that he had been taking the depression medication Zoloft, but it hadn’t worked. When the prescription ran out, he did not renew it and his depression grew.

He described the high-speed chase and driving into the house as “an act of desperation. I was looking for a hard rock to kill myself. When the police boxed me in, I drove into the house. I now regret it desperately.”

After Doyle testified that he had thought no one was living in the house, Judge Jeffrey W. Parker asked Doyle how he knew no one was living there. “I just knew,” said Doyle, “I never saw anyone there, but I heard it was being used as an office.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff asked Parker to consider that “Mr. Doyle was endangering the public and police in his private drama. The house, though very sturdily built, was seriously damaged. He was lucky that no one was hurt, but he didn’t know whether anyone was in the house.” In addition, said Goff, a police officer was run off the road and could have been injured.

In discussing sentencing recommendations, Reynolds described the incident as “a culmination of a number of things. Mr. Doyle’s depressive, suicidal state was clouded by the use of alcohol, which affected his actions.” However, Reynolds told the court, while Doyle has been incarcerated at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail, he successfully completed a 28-day alcohol rehab program at Boxwood Recovery Center in Culpeper.

Doyle has also been accepted into Oxford House, an addiction recovery facility in Charlottesville whose entry requirements include interviews with and acceptance by the existing members of the house. Doyle was expected to report on June 21. “There he would receive family-focused counseling, proper medication, and be required to attend either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings five times a week,” said Reynolds. “Rather than putting Mr. Doyle back in jail, he should be in a rehab program.”

Addressing Doyle, Parker said, “I don’t dispute your depression as a cause of the incident, but that does not excuse your actions. There will be consequences. The court is very troubled by what occurred. An officer was run off the road and you did not know for certain that the house was empty.”

He then sentenced Doyle to two two-year terms in the penitentiary, but suspended all but 13 months, the sentences to be served consecutively. Parker also ordered two years of supervised probation. He also required that Doyle seek counseling at Oxford House, attend AA or NA meetings, and refrain from consuming alcohol.

Sentence for distribution of oxycodone

Derek Rafael Frink was sentenced to three years and four months in the penitentiary on two charges of distributing oxycodone, a controlled narcotic. Frink, along with his twin brother Devin Joseph Frink, and  Tamara Estes and Kathy Ann Vest, were originally indicted in September. The Frinks and Vest faced a single count each of distributing heroin in the county; Estes’ was charged with conspiracy to distribute. Additionally, the Frinks — both 19, of Amissville — and Vest, their mother, were indicted on two counts each of distributing oxycodone.

Goff recommended that Derek Frink receive at least three years in the penitentiary for selling prescription drugs. “That’s a very dangerous thing to do these days,” said Goff. “Frink is a drug dealer, one of a family of drug dealers, whose brother was sentenced just two weeks ago.” He asked the court to “send the message that if you sell drugs, you’ll go to jail for a long time. The public’s health and safety are affected by Mr. Frink’s conduct.”

Frink’s attorney Peter Hansen argued that the facts of the case were somewhat unusual, in that Frink’s mother had also been involved. “As a parent,” said Hansen, “it’s inconceivable to me that a mother, knowing her sons have problems of their own and that their father is absent, would have her own offspring peddle drugs.”

Hansen requested a lower sentence, so that Frink could serve his time locally. “My concern,” he said, “is that Mr. Frink is a young man. If you put him in the penitentiary, the punishment may not have the desired effect, as he will be among hardened criminals.”

Before being sentenced, Frink apologized to the court and promised not to sell drugs again.

Judge Parker, while acknowledging that Hansen made some good points, said “the court shares the commonwealth’s concern about the sale of opiate drugs. It’s become pervasive and I am troubled by it.” He also recognized Frink’s young age, saying that if Frink had been older and hardened, he would receive a longer sentence.

He then sentenced Frink to two 10-year terms in the penitentiary, to be served consecutively, but suspended all but three years and four months; three years of supervised probation; and six month’s suspended license.

Vest was sentenced in March to 10 years in the penitentiary, with eight years and eight months suspended, and three years of supervised probation. Tamara Estes of Washington pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of attempted disorderly conduct. She was sentenced to six months in jail, all suspended, a $500 fine with $400 suspended and six months of supervised probation. On May 22, Devin Frink was sentenced to four years in the state penitentiary.

Goff praised the Page County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police-sponsored drug task force — particularly investigators Ronald McClellan and Jonathan Long and Sgt. Jeremy Keyser — for their help in all three convictions.

Not guilty in firearm charge

In circuit court Tuesday (June 23), Joshua Plum was found not guilty in a jury trial of selling or giving a firearm to convicted felon James Merica. Both 25-year-old men are from Shenandoah. The two were apprehended Jan. 2 by RCSO Deputy Chris Koglin, who was responding to reports of possible “road-hunting” on Thornton Gap Church Road in Sperryville.

The trial hinged on whether Plum was aware that Merica, as a convicted felon, could not handle firearms. Merica, scheduled to be sentenced on July 13 for felony possession of a gun, testified at the trial that he had informed Plum several times of his status. Plum, however, testified that Merica had not revealed that he (Mercia) was a convicted felon and not allowed to handle firearms until just before the incident. Plum has no felonies or misdemeanors on his record. The two men have known each other since high school, but had not been close friends until last October.

In his opening statement, Goff informed the jury that Merica had made a plea agreement with the commonwealth to testify against Plum and that the agreement could reduce Mercia’s sentence from a possible five years to three years. Plum’s attorney, Kevin Gerrity, argued that that deal was incentive for Merica to lie under oath. Questioning of Merica revealed that in fact he had lied under oath in a previous trial.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before reaching its decision.

In circuit court on June 18, Judge Herman A. Wisnant sentenced Dominik Cortez Cropp, 28, of Amissville, on a charge of grand larceny in the theft of shotguns from a shed in April 2013. Cropp was sentenced to three years in prison, all of it suspended; supervised probation for one year and unsupervised probation for two years. He was also ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to the victim.

Sheriff’s report

On June 15, 2015, Deputy M. Dodson stopped a stopped a vehicle on Zachary Taylor Highway in the area of Happy Creek Lane for a traffic stop. As a result of the traffic stop, Dodson arrested Kevon Michael Reik, 21, of Rochester, NY and charged him with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, and three counts of possession of scheduled a schedule I or II drug.

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