District Court: revolving door of drug, alcohol probation violations

The March 8 docket in Rappahannock District Court reflected defendants who have been in and out of the courtroom on a number of occasions.

Tyler Anthony Brown, 25, of Chester Gap,  was arraigned on three charges of violating his probation. Judge J. Gregory Ashwell, after determining that Brown was eligible for a court-appointed attorney, said, “These violations could get you 280 days in jail. It’s important to work with your lawyer. Keep your appointment with your lawyer.”

The violations stem from misdemeanor charges on Oct 16, 2015 of unauthorized possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and public swearing while intoxicated. On Dec. 1, 2015, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 300 days in jail (all suspended), two years of supervised probation, a six-month suspension of his license and $650 in fines. His case was continued to April 12.

Aaron Michael Hawkins, 29, of Castleton, was arraigned on a second charge of violating his probation stemming from a June 20, 2014 incident. Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Koglin, responding to a report of an accident at Richmond Road and Route 618, found Hawkins attempting to tow a friend’s car out of a ditch with a chain attached to his own vehicle. Hawkins was charged with driving under the influence (second offense within 10 years).

He pleaded guilty to the DWI on August 12, 2014 and was sentenced to 120 days in jail (110 days suspended), 12 months of supervised probation; three years’ suspension of his driver’s license, and ordered to pay $500 in fines and complete Virginia’s alcohol awareness program, VASAP.

On Oct. 13, 2015, he pleaded guilty to a first probation violation and was sentenced to 110 days in jail (all suspended) and an additional six months of supervised probation.

At his March 8 arraignment, Hawkins was found to be eligible for a court-appointed attorney. Referring to Tyler Brown, who appeared earlier, Ashwell said, “You’re looking at come-back time, too, of 110 days.” Hawkins’s case was continued to April 12.

Mark Edward Ferris, of Amissville, pleaded guilty to violating the conditions of VASAP. His previously suspended fine was re-imposed and he was ordered to pay $250. On Aug. 8, 2014, Ferris pleaded guilty to a first offense of DWI, amended down from a charge of a second DWI offense. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, all suspended. His license was suspended for 12 months, but he was allowed to apply for a restricted license for certain limited uses. He was required to have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle and to complete VASAP.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff told the court that Ferris “has done the lion’s share of what was ordered.” He explained that Ferris had shown up at a meeting smelling of alcohol, which Ferris claimed was due to mouthwash.”

Ashwell wasn’t buying it. “No one believes the mouthwash excuse anymore,” he said. And advised Ferris, “Go to your meetings with bad breath.”

Brandon Michael Row, 21, of Warrenton, was arraigned on a charge of contempt in violating his probation stemming from an earlier charge of possession of marijuana. That charge was amended to unauthorized possession of drug paraphernalia, to which he pleaded guilty. He was ordered to pay a $100 fine and sentenced to 90 days in jail, all suspended.

Ashwell seemed surprised to see Row in the Rappahannock court on March 8. A day earlier, Row had appeared before Ashwell in Fauquier County District Court in a matter having to do with a charge of petit larceny. The Fauquier case was continued to April 20; Row’s Rappahannock case was continued to April 12.

Eric Jonathan Comer, 42, of Luray appeared in court to request another continuance on his charge of non-compliance VASAP. He claimed he had been in the hospital and had been unable to meet with his lawyer. Ashwell agreed to continue the case to April 12, but sternly advised Comer “to come back with a lawyer.”

It’s not the first time Comer has run afoul of VASAP. On Aug. 18, 2015, he was charged with violating the conditions of the program and sentenced to four days in jail. Both violations are related to a March 14, 2015, charge of a first offense of DWI. He pleaded guilty in District Court on June 9 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, all suspended. His license was suspended for 12 months, but he was allowed to apply for a restricted license for limited uses. He was ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle and attend VASAP.

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