District Court: Instructions and procedures figure in sentencing


The busy morning sessions of Rappahannock District Court on Tuesday (Jan. 19) saw cases finalized, charges amended and sentences imposed.

In her trial before Judge J. Gregory Ashwell, Shelly Renee Collette was found not guilty — due to an administrative error — on a charge of failure to appear in court. A charge of a first instance of DWI was dismissed when questions arose about the instructions given by the arresting officer during routine sobriety testing, and about the collection and processing of a sample of Collette’s blood taken at Warren Memorial Hospital.

However, the 37-year-old Winchester resident was found guilty on charges of driving without a license and failure to drive to the right of the center line. She was fined a total of $400 plus court costs.

The charges resulted from a traffic stop about 3:45 pm on April 10 on U.S. 522 near Ben Venue Road. The arresting officer, C. Dodson from the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Department, testified at Collette’s trial. He told the court that a motorist had reported seeing a car swerving several times across the center line and onto the shoulder of the road, driving from Woodville through Sperryville and onto Route 211.

Dodson followed Collette through the turn at Massie’s Corner up 522 toward Flint Hill and pulled her over at a church near Ben Venue Rd. He testified that while Collette was looking for her license, he observed a prescription bottle in her purse and asked to see it. She told him it was suboxone, a pain killer she had been prescribed after a recent C-section. She said she had taken one some time after lunch. She also had prescriptions for other medications.

After asking Collette to get out of her car, Dodson had her perform several sobriety tests. In court, Collette’s attorney Phillip Griffin successfully argued that Dodson’s instructions had been ambiguous and therefore the results were not conclusive.

In her testimony, Collette attributed her erratic driving to her trying to conduct a conference call with a client and another person over her cell phone. She apologized to the court.

She also testified that she had been driving a car she wasn’t familiar with, her own car having been damaged in an accident the day before the April 10 incident. At that time she learned that her driver’s license had been suspended. The responding officer suggested she go to the DMV to resolve the issue, which she did within days of the accident.  

Charges dropped and amended

Susan Michelle Altenhein appeared in court wearing an orange and white striped uniform emblazoned with “RSW Inmate.” She was being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail, charged with a felony charge of possession of Schedule I or II drugs and a misdemeanor drug possession charge, operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license, failing to stop at the scene of accident, receiving or buying stolen goods valued at less than $200, and making a false report to a law enforcement officer.

In a plea agreement, three charges were dropped: possession of a schedule III drug; failing to stop at the scene of accident; and receiving or buying stolen goods valued at less than $200.

The charge of possessing schedule I or II drugs, a felony, was amended to a misdemeanor charge to which she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in jail (ten months suspended) and six months of supervised probation. Her license was suspended for six months and she was ordered to complete the state’s alcohol safety action program, VASAP.

She also pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license and making a false report to a law enforcement officer and was sentenced to 6 months in jail, all suspended, and 12 months of unsupervised probation.

Another instance of high speed eluding of police

In what seems to be a growing trend in high-speed chases and eluding police, Patrick Jacob Mesina Asis, 38, of Brookeville, Md., was arraigned on two felony charges of eluding or disregarding police, and accompanying misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and driving 20 mph or more over the speed ,limit. The charges stem from Sept. 7, 2015, when Asis, on his Kawasaki motorcycle, led State Trooper Phillip Thomas on a high-speed chase through Sperryville, on Rt. 211, Fodderstack Rd, U. S. 522, and Rt. 729. The case was continued to Feb. 9.  

More drug and alcohol cases

Ayotunde Abiola Adedipe, 22, of Baltimore, originally charged with a first incidence of DWI pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving and was ordered to pay a $500 fine.

Orange resident Samantha Nicole Pruitt, 50, pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation. Her license was suspended for six months, but she may apply for a restricted license for certain uses. She also must complete VASAP.  

The case of Nina Renee Kempson, 34, of Woodbridge, charged with a second incidence of DWI and refusing to take a breath test, was continued again to Feb. 9.

Christopher Roy Harris, 27, of Castleton was arraigned on charges of a first incidence of DWI and refusing a blood or breath test. His case was continued to Mar. 15.


About Patty Hardee 277 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.