Four people received suspended sentences for possession charges this week in Rappahannock County Circuit Court.
Jennifer Lynn Groover was the first of three defendants to receive a suspended sentence Tuesday morning (Sept. 23). Groover pleaded guilty to a felony count of possessing morphine on June 16. As part of a plea agreement, a second misdemeanor charge (possessing or distributing controlled paraphernalia) was dropped.
Summarizing evidence at that time, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said that Groover, 30, of Fredericksburg, was involved in a car accident on U.S. 522 near Sperryville on June 30, 2013. During a search of the vehicle, Virginia State Trooper Paul Domingoes discovered syringes and a spoon in her purse, which later tested positive for morphine.
Goff petitioned Judge Thomas A. Fortcourt to sentence Groover to three months in jail, pointing to her criminal record, which Goff said included roughly one arrest per year for the last 10 years.
“Ms. Groover has an extensive criminal history, especially for someone who’s only 30,” Goff said. “This case cries out for incarceration. I think one to three months [in jail] is fully justified.”
Groover’s defense attorney, Amanda Zadrozny, disagreed with Goff and said Groover’s car accident had been a wake-up call. Groover herself said she lost three teeth and badly cut her head and lower lip in the accident.
Since that time, Groover said, she had stayed away from drugs and alcohol and had been clean for the past 10 months. “It took me a long time to learn what I know now,” Groover said. “I want to show that even somebody like me . . . I can change.”
“Mr. Goff says a message should be sent,” Zadrozny began, “I would say that message has already been received. This accident was literally the kick in the teeth Ms. Groover needed . . . Hang some time over her head, and make it clear to her that this would be her last chance.”
Fortcourt agreed with Zadrozny’s argument and sentenced Groover to two years in jail (all suspended), placed her on supervised probation “starting today” for two years and suspended her license for six months.
“If you come back here, you will do that whole two years in the state penitentiary,” Fortcourt cautioned Groover. “There is no parole in the state penitentiary . . . and if that doesn’t incentivize you, nothing will.”
Steven Lynwood Comer, 46, of Stanley, was also sentenced Tuesday morning. On June 16, Comer pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine.
Goff told the court in June that Comer was pulled over by the Virginia State Police for speeding last March 13. After detecting a marijuana odor coming from the car, Goff said the trooper searched Comer’s car and discovered a plastic baggie, razor and straw.
Despite a recent conviction in Page County making Comer ineligible for a first-offender status (which allows someone with no earlier drug-related convictions to serve probation, after which the charge is dismissed), Comer’s attorney (Zadrozny) lobbied Judge Fortcourt for an entirely suspended sentence.
Fortcourt sentenced Comer to a year in jail (suspended) and placed him on supervised probation for a year; he also suspended Comer’s license for six months.
The final person sentenced Tuesday was Fairfax resident Vanphunida Iv, who received a first-offender status. Iv was found guilty June 24 of possessing a controlled substance (Adderall) without a prescription. RCSO Deputy Cody Dodson said he pulled the 31-year-old 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.
As part of his first-offender status, Iv was placed on supervised probation for one year, had his license suspended for six months and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.
Flint Hill resident Aaron Winston Coffey pleaded guilty last Thursday morning (Sept. 18) and received first-offender status.
Goff said Coffey was pulled over on May 8 for an expired inspection sticker, at which point the RCSO deputy smelled marijuana. While searching the car, Goff said the deputy discovered a plastic bag with marijuana. Coffey, Goff said, told the deputy he intended “to smoke after work.”
Judge Jeffrey W. Parker agreed to the first-offender status and placed Coffey on probation for one year, suspended his license for six months, ordered him to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) and 40 hours of community service.
In a bit of uplifting news, 21-year-old Dustin Samuel Miller appeared in court to affirm he had paid off his court costs.
Nearly two years ago, on Oct. 23, 2012, Miller pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny. Goff said Miller and an accomplice stole a Honda ATV and dirt bike, scrap metal, copper and aluminum from the property of James Mills in February 2012.
Judge Parker sentenced Miller to three years in jail (suspended), two years of supervised probation, 80 hours of community service and entry into the Restorative Justice Program, and ordered him to pay Mills $2,371. Parker also warned Miller that if he failed to do as ordered, he could “expect to do that time.”
“This is a happy day for the court,” Parker said. “I’m just glad somebody actually paid attention to what I said.”