A Strasburg man charged with sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery against a minor was sentenced to two years in jail last week.
Initially charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery, Jerry Russell Bragg, 48, pleaded guilty Jan. 28 to a single felony count and a misdemeanor sexual battery charge as part of a plea deal with Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff. He was sentenced last Tuesday (June 24) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court.
In his January statement to the court, Goff said that between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2001, Bragg molested two of his sons at his home in Amissville. Capt. J.C. Welch of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Bragg on June 20, 2012 — an interview in which, according to Goff’s statement, Bragg admitted the abuse began when each boy was “around 10 or 11.”
Bragg is the biological father of both boys. According to a statement submitted to the court, the abuse continued until 2007, when the boys were 16 years old. Friends of Bragg filled several of the courthouse pews Tuesday morning; four of them submitted recommendation on Bragg’s behalf.
Goff argued for sentence in the midpoint of the guidelines, and said the fact that the abuse continued “for some time” should factor into the sentence.
“Mr. Bragg is a very fortunate man to have such a close network of friends,” Goff said, “and that speaks for him on the outside . . . These crimes shocked me to my very core. This went on for a long time . . . These are crimes against children, and that needs a measure of punishment.”
Bragg’s defense counsel, Peter Hansen, described the case as “unusual,” as he rarely had a defendant accused of such crimes still display “the depth of community support Mr. Bragg has.” Hansen conceded that there needed to be punishment handed down, but asked for a 14-month sentence.
“I know that’s a lot to ask,” Hansen said. “But there’s no question he will obey the law to the letter from now on . . . Once he understands what an authority figure is asking of him, it’s in his nature to obey.”
For his part, Bragg thanked those who came out to support him, and apologized to the community and to his family. “I wish [my family] could hear me say I’m sorry,” Bragg said. “I really want my family to forgive me.”
Judge Herman A. Whisenant imposed a sentence of 10 years (eight suspended), a $1,000 fine and five years of supervised probation on the aggravated sexual battery charge. On the sexual battery charge, Whisenant sentenced Bragg to 12 months (all suspended) and five years of supervised probation.
After an unusual hearing, assault and battery charges against Sheila F. Haun were dismissed when substantial discrepancies were found in the testimonies of the two responding RCSO officers and Haun’s daughter, Tamara Estes, who had originally called the police.
Estes said she and her mother had gotten into an argument last Dec. 9 over a change in Christmas plans, and had called the police because she wanted to be escorted out of the house. “I didn’t want anything to escalate,” Estes said.
Deputy Chris Ubben and Sgt. D.J. Stevens said they were called to a domestic assault in progress, though in court Tuesday morning Estes said her mother had never struck her. Photos showed Estes with a knot on her head (which she claimed was a permanent mark from her childhood temper tantrums), as well as scratches on her arms. Both deputies reported hearing Haun say something about “amnesia in the courtroom,” but no offenses could be proven.
“I just can’t get over [Estes’] testimony — and this is the Commonwealth’s witness,” said Haun’s counsel, Kirk Milam. “There’s direct evidence there was not an assault and battery . . . Ms. Estes said there was no contact. That’s all there is.”
Though he ultimately dismissed the charges, Whisenant addressed Estes on the dangers of lying under oath. “There’s a lot of little problems with this case. And there may be a case later where you’re charged with perjury. There’s no reason to use community resources [like the police] . . . and then suddenly develop ‘amnesia.’ ”
“Between you and me,” Whisenant continued, “were this a jury trial, there’s a condition in there that says the jurors are to use their common sense. Common sense tells me real quick your mother wouldn’t be here in court this morning if [what you said today] was really the case.”
Despite pleading not guilty, Vanphunida Iv was found guilty of possessing a controlled substance (adderall) without a prescription. RCSO Deputy Cody Dodson said he pulled Iv, 31, of Fairfax, over last Sept. 15 after observing him crossing the center line several times on U.S. 211.
Dodson said he smelled alcohol after stopping Iv, and charged him with driving under the influence (DUI). Dodson said he also found several “small, orange pills” in the car, which Iv said he bought from a friend. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23.
The Sheriff’s Report
RCSO deputy Christopher Koglin, responding last Friday (June 20) to a report of an accident at Richmond Road and Route 618, found Aaron Michael Hawkins, 29, of Castleton, attempting to tow a friend’s car out of a ditch with a chain attached to his own vehicle. Hawkins was charged with driving under the influence (second offense within 10 years) and is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday (July 1).
Last Friday (June 25), Deputy Christopher Koglin arrested 47-year-old Rodney Randolph Thompson of Huntly for the felony charge of driving after being declared a habitual offender. The next day (June 26), as a result of a traffic stop, Deputy M. Dodson arrested Kyle Plunkett, 21, of Centreville. Plunkett was charged with one felony (possession of a schedule I or II drug) and two misdemeanors (DUI and possession of drug paraphernalia).
Saturday (June 27), as a result of a motor vehicle crash on Zachary Taylor Highway, Deputy M. Dodson arrested 23-year-old Adrienne Michelle Yowell of Front Royal and charged her with DUI. On June 28, 18-year-old Michael Tyler Spencer of Rhoadesville was arrested and charged with two felonies (using a computer to commit certain sex offenses with minor and indecent liberties).
Also on Sunday (June 28), Delmas Dean Dotson, 47, of Huntly, was arrested and charged with five felonies: Impersonating a notary public, two counts of forging public records, obtaining money by false pretense and forgery of a public office seal, as well as one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting a crime. Monday (June 29), Deputy Chris Ubben arrested Justin William Menefee, 21, of Sperryville, and charged him with attempted malicious wounding.