Firearm charge amended, man given probation

A California man initially charged with assault and brandishing a firearm pleaded guilty to an amended charge of trespassing, over the victim’s objections, and was sentenced Thursday morning (Aug. 15) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court.

As part of a plea agreement, the assault charge against 63-year-old Timothy Merwin Overton was dropped and the charge of brandishing a firearm was changed to trespassing. Both charges stemmed from a confrontation last fall with county resident Megan S. Smith in her home.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said Overton had been staying in Smith’s house since April 1, 2012, after undergoing hip surgery. Goff said their relationship had “deteriorated” significantly since then and led to an argument between the two in November, after which Smith told Overton he had to move out.

Testifying briefly Thursday morning, Smith said Overton then became angry with her and produced two loaded handguns from the nightstand, one of which he pointed at Smith, even going so far as to pull the trigger when the gun was next to her ear, though no shots were fired.

Overton, in a brief statement, disputed Smith’s version of the fight and claimed he never meant to point a gun at her.

Smith testified that she left the house after the confrontation, and when she returned a day later,  Overton “acted as if nothing had happened.” Goff said Overton agreed to move out shortly after, into a hotel room Smith had paid for.

Smith also submitted a written statement to Judge Jeffrey W. Parker, objecting to the leniency of the amended charges and suggested sentence. “I am still afraid of this man and went to the extent of having an expensive alarm system put into a home I’ve owned for over a decade because of fear,” she wrote.

“By accepting this plea bargain, I believe the Commonwealth is sending a signal to the defendant and Virginia citizens that leniency will prevail following domestic violence against women in our Commonwealth.”

“I’m not going to defend Mr. Overton’s actions,” said Parker before sentencing. “But I am going to take his [lack of a] record into account . . . Some people will look at this and say, ‘Look at what could have happened.’ I’m looking at what did happen.”

Parker then agreed to Goff’s recommendations, sentencing Overton to serve 90 days in jail (all suspended), placed him on two years of unsupervised probation (with the condition that he have no contact with Smith) and pay a $1,000 fine (with $750 suspended).

Also in court Thursday, 42-year-old Amissville resident Sandra Marlene Weaver had a previously suspended 34-month sentence reimposed, after she pleaded guilty to a third violation of her probation.

Weaver admitted she had failed to report to several of her probation meetings and hadn’t yet paid her court costs, due, she said, to her mother’s poor health, a recent move to Culpeper and her lack of a job, license or vehicle.

Weaver also admitted to violating her probation earlier by testing positive for opiates, an addiction she said she has battled for 10 years, recently seeking treatment at the Culpeper-based Boxwood Recovery Center. “I realize I messed up,” said Weaver, who vowed she would perform better if given another chance. “My recent behavior doesn’t define who I am.”

Goff disagreed, however, asking Parker to impose a jail sentence instead of more probation. “This is the third time,” Goff observed. “It’s like a broken record . . . She’s not a candidate for probation, she insists on taking drugs . . . [and] she absconds.”

Weaver’s defense attorney Kelly O’Donnell petitioned Parker for leniency and “intensive supervised probation” on the grounds that Weaver has been trying to change. “Simple jail time doesn’t address her issues,” O’Donnell insisted. “She’s not a hopeless case . . . [but] she needs help and treatment.”

Parker, however, agreed with the prosecution’s view that Weaver’s repeated appearances were akin to “a broken record,” and decided to impose jail time. “After repeated probation violations, the court runs out of options,” said Parker, who sentenced Weaver to 34 months in Rappahannock County Jail, beginning immediately.

District Court cases

Culpeper resident William Michael Collins’ request for a lowered bond was denied Tuesday morning (Aug. 20) in Rappahannock County District Court. The 46-year-old Collins has been unable to post his bond, currently set at $20,000.

Collins is charged with felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence (his second such charge in five years), refusal to submit to a sobriety test and driving on a suspended license — all after an accident on Aug. 9.

According to the incident report, Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office Deputy C. Koglin responded to an accident on U.S. 522, apparently between Collins and another vehicle; the report states that Collins fled the scene after being chased by the car he struck.

When Koglin eventually pulled him over, Collins was unsteady on his feet and exhibited slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. Koglin’s complaint states that he administered three field sobriety tests to Collins, who “showed signs of impairment on all three.” Koglin then arrested Collins, who’s been held in the county jail since.

Despite Collins’ attorney’s claims that he was not a flight risk and that the $20,000 bond was excessive — due, at least partially, to the fact that Collins qualified to have the public defender’s office appointed to his case — Judge J. Gregory Ashwell denied the bond motion after learning that Collins was free on a bond issued in Loudoun County at the time of the alleged offenses. His next court date is Oct. 8.

Chester Brown, 53, of Sperryville, was assigned a public defender and denied bond Tuesday morning by Ashwell, who remarked it “seems like yesterday we released you on a personal recognizance bond . . . now you’re back here with two more charges.”

Brown is charged with indecent exposure and obstruction of justice without force. According to the incident report, Brown was shopping for a gift for his wife at Knit Wit Yarn Shop on Aug. 14; while paying for the clothing he picked out, according to court documents, his zipper was down and he exposed part of himself. When RCSO Deputy Chris Ubben went to arrest Brown the next day, Brown climbed out a bedroom window and fled.