Timber thief sentenced to eight months

Miriam L. White, a former Sperryville tenant of James William “Bill” Fletcher III, was sentenced to eight months in jail in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Friday morning (Dec. 21).

White was found guilty of four counts of grand larceny after a day-long trial in September, during which White said she and her family had been renting property from Fletcher earlier this year at 14048 Lee Hwy. and had obtained Fletcher’s permission to cut down trees for firewood and to make trails for horses on the property.

Fletcher, who serves as agent for 14048 Lee Hwy. LLC, a trust for his children, agreed that he had given White permission to make firewood and horse trails, but said that what she was doing didn’t qualify as either of those – it was logging.

Friday morning, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff called Fletcher to testify on how much he is owed in restitution. Fletcher said he is seeking $16,156.05 – the balance of the timber White sold – and an additional $10,000 to pay for the logging-related cleanup of his property.

In testimony Friday, White repeated statements made during the trial – that she loved the property and wasn’t trying to steal timber from Fletcher. “It was our dream to make that a property where we would live forever,” White said. “In no way was I timbering the property.”

White further testified that if she were sentenced to jail time, it would “devastate [her] daughter’s life,” and force her to close her business, an orthopedic massage clinic in Marshall. “I still maintain my intention was to beautify [the property] so everyone could enjoy it,” White said.

Goff asked Judge Jeffrey W. Parker to impose the sentence recommended by the jury on Sept. 20. That recommendation was two months in jail, per charge, as well as a $2,500 fine per charge.

“That’s kind of a break for her,” Goff said. “She was the one who asked for a jury trial; she should get exactly what she asked for . . . I don’t think the sentence is cruel.”

Parker called White’s story “ludicrous,” and said the idea that her sentence would not begin immediately was “as delusional as the ‘riding trails’ story.”

“The fact that you continue to stand by your statements reminds me of that country song, ‘That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It,’ ” Parker said. “But I don’t believe it for one minute, and neither did [the jury of] 12 other people . . . [What you did] we call that timbering.”

Parker noted it was “unfortunate” that White’s sentencing would have a ripple effect on “innocent people,” but admonished her that she “should have thought about that before [she] did this.”

Parker then followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced White to eight months in jail (beginning immediately), placed her on one year of supervised probation and fined her $2,500 per charge. He suspended that fine, under the condition that White pay Fletcher $26,000 in restitution. White is currently being held in Culpeper County Jail.