More marijuana charges reduced

Charged after three marijuana plants were discovered on his Harris Hollow property last July, 67-year-old Robert Alcott of Washington pleaded guilty in Rappahannock County Circuit Court last Thursday (Feb. 2) to misdemeanor possession of marijuana, receiving a suspended 30-day jail sentence, 12 months of unsupervised probation and a six-month loss of license.

According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, who has spent more than a few hours since assuming the prosecutor’s post in January drawing the line between possession and “manufacture” of marijuana, the arrest was the result of a July 27 helicopter overflight as part of a “drug eradication mission” initiated by the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office and other members of the Blue Ridge Narcotics Task Force.

Goff said in court that there was no evidence to indicate manufacture or distribution – a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and fines up to $100,000 – which is why he pursued the lesser misdemeanor possession charge. The maximum sentence for a possession of marijuana is a year in a local jail, and many first-offenders are often spared any jail time, instead paying fines and losing driving privileges for six months to a year. 

Alcott’s case comes shortly after a similar result for 55-year-old Castleton resident Martin Heck Henze, when marijuana possession with intent to distribute and marijuana manufacture charges after nine plants were found growing on his property; those charges were amended to a single count of possession of marijuana. No evidence of manufacture or resale was found in that case, Goff said, and Henze pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession on Jan. 10, paid a $250 fine and had his license is restricted to work use for six months. According to Sheriff Connie Smith, the plants were initially spotted from the air Aug. 20 during an early-morning manhunt for the suspects in the Grand View Road arson.

William Edward Green, 57, of Boston, pleaded guilty last Thursday to two felonies – possession with intent to distribute marijuana and manufacturing marijuana for others – charges that resulted from a late-night April 2 drug raid at the man’s Boston home, which uncovered about a pound of marijuana, 65 seedling plants and $2,800 in cash. Green will be sentenced on April 24.

Goff said in court Thursday that the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force and members of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office recovered processed marijuana and the cash ($200 of which were bills marked by task force investigators) in Green’s bedroom closet, and also found about 65 seedling marijuana plants and six other plants in various stages of growth near a dog kennel in the guest house.

The plants were all seedlings in a windowbox, one or two inches tall, Green’s attorney added. Task Force detective Anthony Zopp testified that after the marijuana and cash was discovered, Green told him the construction business had been slow, and so for the past two years he had been buying marijuana at $2,800 a pound and making a $400 per-pound profit.

Stevie Junior Settle, 40, of Rixeyville, pleaded guilty to felonious possession of heroin in circuit court Wednesday (Feb. 1) and was sentenced to five months of active prison time – two years in a state penitentiary, with one year and seven months suspended – and a six-month loss of license. As part of a plea agreement, three traffic related misdemeanors (which included a third-offense DWI charge) were dropped.

According to a complaint filed by then-deputy Nick White, the deputy pulled Settle over for a defective license plate light at about 6:30 a.m. on April 16 and observed a number of suspicious behaviors, including Settle switching seats with the passenger, his wife. White subjected Settle to a field sobriety test, finding Settle to be unsteady on his feet, almost falling over, according to White. A voluntary breath test was negative, the complaint said, leading White to believe Settle was under the influence of drugs.

According to White, Settle volunteered a search of the vehicle, during which White found a bag containing white powder identified as heroin, hypodermic needles and scales.

Phillip Wayne Fletcher, 48, of Washington, agreed to a deferred finding of guilt, pleading “facts sufficient” to felonious possession of PCP on Thursday. Fletcher will be sentenced March 3. Goff said that on Sept. 17, Deputy White responded to a 911 call at 74 Starks Road about an “ill male subject.” White arrived and found one of the male subjects to be incoherent. According to Goff, White was told that the Fletcher and others had smoked a cigarette dipped in PCP, and retrieved a cigarette wrapped in aluminum foil from the freezer. Lab results confirmed that the cigarette contained PCP.