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Plea deal shaves 22-year term to 20 days for Virginia man

Plea bargaining offers advantages for Newport News prosecutors and defendants. The commonwealth avoids wasting effort and time by resolving a case in pre-trial. A defendant's guilty plea may be exchanged for a reduction in charges, sentences or both.

Two Virginia men got into an argument at a James City Hooters in April 2013. The men, under the influence of alcohol, carried the verbal spat to the restaurant parking lot. One man abandoned the argument and left in a truck headed for a relative's home.

As the vehicle entered the driveway, another truck containing three men pulled up behind it. A member of the trio -- the same man who argued with the restaurant patron -- waved a gun as his earlier opponent approached the vehicle. Two shots were fired after the alleged victim was pulled to the ground by a witness.

The truck with the shooter took off, but the victim set off in pursuit. Police stopped both vehicles and discovered a handgun in the alleged shooter's truck. The victim identified the weapon but told authorities he was unsure who fired the gun.

The handgun owner was charged with repeat DUI, driving while suspended, brandishing and reckless handling of a firearm, discharging from a vehicle and malicious wounding. A recent plea agreement eliminated all charges except DUI and weapon brandishing. A felony charge was added related to a separate incident involving possession of a stolen all-terrain vehicle.

The defendant was facing a potential 22-year prison term, until prosecutors and the criminal defense attorney worked out a plea deal. The 22-year-old man was given credit for four months spent in jail. Along with ordering restitution for the stolen ATV, the judge suspended all sentences except a 20-day mandatory DUI term.

A plea deal offers a shorter path to the resolution of a criminal case. The defendant obtains a known outcome, without risking an uncertain jury verdict.

Source: The Virginia Gazette, "Man pleads guilty to firearm, DUI charges in James City incident" Susan Robertson, Jun. 02, 2014

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