After hearing testimony from several witnesses in a Feb. 16 hearing, Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant found no evidence that Randy Smoot had tampered with an alcohol and drug monitoring device.
Charged with first-degree murder on Oct. 22, Smoot, 47, of Flint Hill, had been released on bond on Dec. 7. At that time he was ordered to wear a secure continuous remote alcohol monitor (SCRAM) bracelet around his ankle. Through contact with the skin, the device detects the presence of alcohol or illegal drugs and transmits the information to a remote data station.
On Jan. 23, Smoot was reincarcerated for allegedly tampering with the device. As reported at the time by the Rappahannock News, a technician employed to monitor SCRAM compliance had alerted authorities in Rappahannock County.
“This is a confirmed tamper,” he said. “The client placed an obstruction between his leg and the sensor. Furthermore, the bracelet did detect the presence of alcohol.” As a condition of his release on bond, Smoot was ordered not to consume alcohol or drugs.
At the February hearing, Shaun Stewart, a data analyst with Alcohol Monitoring Systems in Littleton, Co., explained the technical workings of a SCRAM device.
“It’s like a breathalyzer for your skin,” he said. “A fuel cell detects if alcohol is present” and can sense if something is between the device and the skin.
During a 16-hour period around January 15 and 16, Stewart testified, transmissions from the device were interrupted. The conclusion, he said, was that “something came between the sensor and the skin [intentionally] preventing detection of alcohol.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff asked if the 16-hour variance could have been caused by machine error.
Stewart answered that his company’s service providers are trained in the application and use of the device, implying that the potential for error was extremely low.
However, Hannah Field, Smoot’s pretrial case officer from Adult Court Services, testified that she had experienced “issues with the data uploading” from the base station at Smoot’s mother’s house, where he is residing.
She also reported that Smoot had complained that the device didn’t seem to be working.
Smoot himself testified that not only had he not had alcohol, he also experienced “constant” problems with the device and that Field had helped him get it to work. On Jan. 15, Smoot, who works for Williams Tree Service, said that he had been working all day outdoors. It had been a cold day and he had been wearing long johns under his clothes and heavy sox to keep warm. The clothing may have gotten between the device and his ankle.
In a dramatic turn, while on the witness stand, Smoot offered to show the court the device.
“You’re wearing it now?” asked Whisenant.
As Goff and Smoot’s attorney Mark Williams approached the stand, Smoot pulled up the leg of his orange and white “RSW Inmate” jumpsuit to reveal that the device moved loosely around and up and down his ankle.
Stewart, called back to the stand, testified that the device was supposed to be attached snugly. “The bracelet is too loose,” he said.
Smoot’s attorney Mark Williams said in his closing arguments, “Mr. Stewart says these things make no mistakes. But Ms. Field said [she and Smoot] had had problems. Mr. Stewart was forthcoming that the bracelet was too loose.”
Before reinstating the court order that established Smoot’s bail, Whisenant said that his decision was predicated on Smoot’s testimony, and ordered that the bracelet be fitted properly. Shortly after, Smoot was released from Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail.
On March 12, the murder trial date is due to be set.
Guilty plea for child porn
In the Feb. 15 session of Circuit Court, Forrest Clark Richmond, 26, of Amissville, pleaded guilty to 12 charges of possessing child pornography, eleven of which are for two or more offenses. According to the criminal complaint, during a search of Richmond’s home on Nov. 3, 2017, “at least 12 video files were recovered [from a computer drive] that clearly depict girls (prepubescent) engaged in sex acts.”
Special investigator Chad Morris of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force testified that Richmond admitted to having an interest in child pornography and had reproduced it.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 14. Virginia’s sentencing guidelines call for up to five years in prison for the first charge, and potential sentences of up to 10 years each for the subsequent charges.
Whisenant, summarizing the plea agreement, said that Richmond could be sentenced at the low end of the recommended guidelines. In addition, after release, he will face 20 years of probation, waive his Fourth Amendment right to protection against search and seizure, and must have no contact with children under the age of 18.
In advance of the sentencing hearing, Whisenant requested a pre-sentence report. He also called for Richmond to undergo a psycho-sexual examination.
“The court needs as much information as it can get,” said Whisenant.
In the meantime, Richmond is being held at RSW.