No-show gets day in court; withdraws appeal

Kenneth Eugene Bennett, having failed to appear in Rappahannock County Circuit Court on March 16 for the jury trial he’d requested, was present on April 6, courtesy of the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail. Shortly after his no-show on March 13, he was arrested and incarcerated.

The Winchester resident had asked for a jury trial to appeal the guilty verdict handed down in a lower court on charges of a first offense of DWI, driving with an open container of alcohol and driving under a revoked or suspended license. All three charges stemmed from an incident on Oct. 9, 2016. According to the criminal complaint, Rappahannock County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. M. Dodson was responding to a residential burglar alarm on Rock Mills Road when he encountered the vehicle driven by Bennett.

At the time, Bennett was driving approximately 15 mph in the 45 mph zone. When he executed a right turn into a driveway without signaling, Dodson stopped him, questioned him and determined that he was intoxicated.

On April 6, Bennett withdrew his appeal and pleaded guilty. Judge Jeffrey W. Parker sentenced Bennett to 180 days in jail, with all but 10 days suspended. He will be subject to two years of supervised probation and required to pay $2391 in fines and court costs, including the cost of the trial that was scheduled and never held.

Court-appointed attorney Cindy Shin successfully argued for certain evidence to be suppressed in the case of her client, Stormy Elizabeth Fitzjohn, charged with unauthorized possession of drug paraphernalia.

At issue was whether statements made in the conversation between Fitzjohn and the arresting officer, Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. M. Dodson, were intended to incriminate Fitzjohn.  At the hearing, Dodson testified that he had not notified Fitzjohn of her right not to speak while in custody. This is known as the Miranda warning.

On October 20, 2016, advised Fitzjohn, 38, at her residence in Sperryville Dodson advised her of an outstanding arrest warrant for a failure to appear in Prince William County Circuit Court on a charge of possession of a schedule I or II drug.

At the hearing, Dodson testified that before taking Fitzjohn into custody, he asked if she needed to take anything with her. She asked her aunt, who was at Fitzjohn’s residence, for her shoes and purse.

Dodson further testified that as part of normal procedure, he asked Fitzjohn if the purse was hers and she said yes.

“I didn’t know anything about the contents of the purse,” said Dodson. Again as part of normal procedure he looked inside the purse before putting it in the trunk of his patrol car.

Inside, he found two syringes and charged her with unauthorized possession of drug paraphernalia.

While en route to the sheriff’s office to be formally charged, and while waiting for the magistrate, Dodson told the court, he asked Fitzjohn about her drug use and drug activity in the county.

Parker ruled that “once [Dodson] took [Fitzjohn] into custody, I have to assume that the conversation was evidentiary.” He granted the motion to suppress Fitzjohn’s statements made while in custody.

Joshua McCullough, 19, of Amissville, appealed a district court decision to deny him bond, so that he could be released from jail pending further disposition of his case.

McCullough, an Amissville resident, was arrested in February and charged with multiple counts of felony breaking and entering, felony grand larceny, felony destruction of property, misdemeanor destruction of property, and misdemeanor larceny. The charges stem from multiple burglaries and larcenies that occurred between July and September 2016.

His court-appointed attorney Shin argued that McCullough’s mother would be responsible for him. Shin told the court that McCullough was only 19, had only one criminal conviction on his record, and had close ties to the community.

Parker, however said, “The court is concerned about the sheer volume of these new charges. The court has to be concerned about the safety of the community.”

Parker denied the bond request. McCullough will continue to be held at RSW.

About Patty Hardee 177 Articles

Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.