Tearful exchange in court between defendant and victim
In a brief but emotional court appearance, 29-year-old Bryan Daniel Graves pleaded guilty in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Monday (Jan. 9) to both charges against him: driving while intoxicated and causing maiming, a felony; and a second-time DWI offense, a misdemeanor.
It was a year to the day from when Graves’ pickup truck crossed the centerline on northbound Route 231 and hit Virginie Audrain’s car head on. Audrain, 54, had to be cut out of the wreckage and, after a week in the intensive care unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital, spent the next three months in hospitals and rehab centers.
And she may never be fully healed. In a later phone call, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said, “Virginie still shows signs of the accident. Although there is no evident scarring, she has several pieces of [implanted] orthopedic hardware to keep her together.” He introduced in court four X-rays of Audrain’s knee, shoulder, pelvis, and wrist showing the metal implants.
It was a somber proceeding presided over by Judge Herman A. Whisenant. If the judge accepts the plea agreement between Graves, his attorney Kevin Smith and Goff, Graves would be sentenced to five years in prison on the felony charge, with three years suspended, and 12 months for the misdemeanor, with 10 months suspended.
Graves’ driver’s license would be suspended indefinitely, according to Goff’s recommendation, and he’d be on supervised probation for three years, unsupervised for another two.
Whisenant will pronounce a final sentence on March 8, after he has had chance to review a full pre-sentencing report on Graves. Whisenant also revoked Graves’ bail and remanded him to custody at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail until sentencing.
Apology, tears and a message
The agreement also included a stipulation that “the defendant will write a letter of apology to Virginie Audrain before his sentencing hearing.” Goff presented the letter to Audrain minutes before Graves appeared in the courtroom. In a phone call Tuesday, Audrain described the one-page handwritten letter as “really beautiful. He said how sorry he was, that he has been working on himself, that he hopes this experience will turn into something positive and that he will work to help others. It was important to me that he owned his mistake.”
As Graves was being led out of the courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy, his gaze met Audrain’s and he burst into tears. Audrain stood and hugged him, and his mother, who also wept. “I didn’t expect that to happen,” said Audrain. “I felt we reached some resolution and a place of respect.”
Both Goff and Audrain stressed that they hope the message to come out of this experience is about the danger of drugged driving. “This is a big national issue,” said Audrain, “people using painkillers and then driving.”
Goff said that everyone understands how dangerous driving drunk is, “but [painkillers] are central nervous system depressants and have the same effect as alcohol. The message I hope everyone will take from this is that driving while on drugs, even prescription drugs, is as dangerous as driving drunk and can land you in prison.”
Grand jury indictments
A circuit court grand jury met on Monday and handed down a true bill indicting Laura Leigh Sherill, 33, of Amissville, of possession of a controlled substance, a felony; and a first offense of possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. The charges stem from a traffic stop early in the morning of Oct 10 last year, when RCSO Deputy R.M. McCormick observed Sherill weaving on the road and driving well below the posted speed limit.