James Merica, 26, of Shenandoah, was sentenced in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Monday (July 13) for possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. Merica was apprehended Jan. 2 by Sheriff’s Deputy C. Koglin, who was responding to reports of possible “road-hunting” on Thornton Gap Church Road in Sperryville.
At the time he was apprehended, Merica was accompanied by Joshua Plum, 25, also of Shenandoah, who was charged with selling or giving a firearm to a convicted felon (Merica). A Circuit Court jury acquitted Plum of the charge on June 23.
Before Merica’s sentencing, his attorney Kirk T. Milam, called Merica’s mother and aunt to attest to Merica’s character. Merica’s mother described her son as a caring person who helped his girlfriend raise her daughter for almost five years, since the child was an infant. She also said that Merica had been a great help to his elderly grandfather, doing chores around the house, and also helping care for his disabled sister, and that he had completed a parenting course.
She said that on Merica’s release, he would live with her and be under a strict curfew and other rules. Merica is being held at RSW Regional Jail.
Merica’s aunt said that her nephew “was very remorseful and had learned a lesson.” She told the court that Merica’s girlfriend had left him, but loved him and would come back if Merica cleaned up his life.
Milam asked Judge Jeffrey W. Parker to consider sentencing Merica to the lower end of recommended guidelines because “this is not a case where a convicted felon used a weapon in the furtherance of another violent crime. It doesn’t mean that Merica didn’t commit a crime, but he was hunting to put food on his table.” In addition, he said, Merica cooperated with the deputy at the time of the incident.
Milam also argued that Merica had an incentive to straighten up: “He has deep ties to his girlfriend’s little girl. The only way to stay in her life is to clean up his act.” He asked that Parker impose an active sentence with some time suspended, “so that Mr. Merica knows he has an axe over his head” as further incentive.
Before he was sentenced Merica addressed the court. “I want to apologize for causing trouble and I will cooperate completely.”
Judge Parker said: “You’re record is rough. The Commonwealth would have been right to prosecute to the full extent of the law,” but he agreed that the facts of the case were not egregious. He then sentenced Merica to five years in the penitentiary, but suspended all but one year and eight months; and two years of supervised probation upon his release.
Johnny William Pullen Sr., 23, of Fredericksburg, was sentenced on charges of breaking and entering and grand larceny in connection with the Jan. 28 theft of copper and other metals from Jeffrey Scroggins Jr. and to similar charges in the theft of currency from Frances Pullen on Jan. 20.
His attorney, Kevin Gerrity, asked Judge Parker to consider the lower end of the sentencing guidelines in the plea agreement with Pullen and Goff. “Mr. Pullen broke into a garage,” he said, “not a house, and stole to support his heroin habit. He had no other felonies on his record when he was arrested.”
In his sentencing statement, Parker said: “The court has limited sympathy for one who sneaks in and steals to support a drug habit which you brought upon yourself.” He sentenced Pullen to two years for each of three charges for a total of six years in the penitentiary, but suspended all but 18 months. He also ordered three years of supervised probation and required Pullen to pay restitution to the victim. Pullen is authorized for work release after serving six months.
Skkyie Williams, 20, of Culpeper, was sentenced for possession of heroin. Last June 7 Conservation Police Officer Owen Bullard investigated a pickup truck that was partially parked in the Thornton River near Rock Mills, where Williams and her friends were apparently swimming. Drugs and paraphernalia were found in Williams’ backpack.
Because this was a first offense, Parker sentenced Williams to 18 months of supervised probation and required her to perform 100 hours of community service. Her driver’s license is suspended for six months, but she may apply for a restricted license.
Grand jury indicts three
A Circuit Court grand jury returned indictments Monday (July 13) against three alleged felons:
- Shamaila Tanweer, 30, of Culpeper, indicted on three felony counts of tampering with Virginia Lottery scratch-off tickets while she was employed at Hillsdale Country Store near Washington. Tanweer is free on $5,000 bond.
- Ashley Dawn Sweeney, 29, of Charlottesville, indicted for alleged possession of Schedule I and II drugs. On May 1, Sweeney was arrested on outstanding warrants obtained by Sheriff’s Deputy M. Dodson following an incident in Rappahannock County on Jan. 27. Sweeney is accused of possession of a schedule I or II drug, possession of a schedule III drug and possession of controlled paraphernalia.
• Christopher W. Sutphin, 22, of Culpeper, indicted on grand larceny charges in connection with a burglary and theft in early April at a workshop building in the 13000 block of Lee Highway.