Aileen thief gets 17 months in jail

Austin Duane Settle, the 26-year-old Castleton resident convicted of committing six felonies at the former Aileen factory in Flint Hill – two counts each of breaking and entering, grand larceny and destruction of property – was sentenced to 17 months in jail in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Tuesday morning (Jan. 22).

Settle, held at Rappahannock County Jail since July 5, pleaded guilty to all charges at his last court appearance Oct. 23. Summarizing evidence at that hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said Settle entered the former factory last Feb. 13 and removed copper wires from the walls and brass fittings from what used to be an employee bathroom, damaging the walls and fixtures in the process. Settle briefly stored the parts in Castleton before selling them at Wise Recycling in Culpeper for $1,120.

Goff said Settle did this a second time a few days later, taking materials worth around $600. Settle was originally charged with 12 felonies; as part of his plea agreement, the other six charges were dropped.

Goff urged Judge Burke F. McCahill to follow the sentencing guidelines, saying they were appropriate in this case, “given the sheer scale of the crime,” and added that while Settle needed to address his substance-abuse problem, that should wait until after his sentence.

“This was a methodical, almost industrial-level operation,” Goff said, noting that Settle often wore an infrared headlamp, a form of night vision goggles that allowed him to see better in the dark. “He was very determined.”

Public defender Kevin Garrity argued for leniency, noting that Settle had “little to no criminal history prior to this” and that he was cooperative with the police after his arrest.

“This was not somebody’s house, it was a largely abandoned warehouse,” Garrity said. “If Mr. Settle had a lengthier criminal history I’d agree with Mr. Goff . . . Mr. Settle did this to feed his drug habit and to support his family and . . . admits being arrested probably saved his life.”

“This was a very methodical operation,” McCahill said to Settle after hearing both arguments. “It was systematic theft over a period of time . . . You had the opportunity to stop, take a deep breath and consider what you were doing each time and instead you continued . . .  I understand your motivation . . . but the point of the criminal justice system isn’t just about treatment – it’s about punishment.”

McCahill then sentenced Settle to 14 years total for the six felony charges, with all but 17 months suspended. He also placed Settle on one year of supervised probation and two years of unsupervised probation afterward. Settle will also have to pay restitution, though the exact amount has not yet been determined.

Goff had originally placed the restitution at $13,855, but Garrity said it was his understanding that some of the scrap had been recovered and returned, which should offset the amount owed. Goff said both sides would need to talk to the property owner in order to find out what, if anything, had been recovered. The restitution hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7.