After a long jury trial Tuesday that had county deputies bringing in pizza to jurors, a Floyd County jury of eight men and four women found Rebecca Jones Richard of Roanoke guilty of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and conspiracy, recommending a 10-year prison sentence.
The 42-year-old Richard argued that she was a victim of a plan hatched by the man who accompanied her to Floyd County before she was arrested at the Dollar General Store in Check on June 15 of last year. A Sheriff’s Office investigator used text messages on cell phones to implement a sting involving selling the drugs to raise cash for a car sale.
On the witness stand, Richard told the court she was “on the run” from a drug gang in Roanoke.
Testimony by investigator Michael Wade consumed most of Tuesday’s day-long trial in Floyd County Circuit Court. A recording of discussions between Wade and Richard was also played to the jury.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Banscom argued that Richard, an admitted meth addict and seller of the drug, was a willing participant in the scheme and was “blaming everyone but herself” for her actions.
Defense attorney Chris Bowman of Roanoke argued that his client was a drug addict who had sold drugs in the past but was trying to “make things right” by giving federal prosecutors evidence to shut down the drug ring she had been involved with.
He recommended the jury drop the conspiracy charge and find her guilty of simple drug possession without the more serious “distribution” charge.
Branscom said Richard brought a dangerous drug into the county with the intention of selling it.
“She admits being someone who sold the drugs,” he said. “She also admits being an addict.”
After a long debate over instructions, the jury began deliberations Tuesday at 5:22 p.m. After a question to the judge about a possible “option” not offered the original instructions shortly before 7 p.m., the jury returned to their room and came out with the two guilty verdicts requested by Branscom shortly after 7:30 p.m. before returning for the “sentencing phase” considerations.
The jury had a choice of a minimum of five years in prison on each charge or up to 40 years on both – an option of a minimum of 10 years or a maximum of 80. The jury returned minimum sentences on both.
The sentence is a recommendation by the jury. Judge Marc Long will pronounce the final sentence after a pre-sentencing investigation by the county probation officer.
After the guilty verdicts, Branscom asked Long to have Richard placed in custody immediately while awaiting final sentencing by the judge in a couple of months.
Defense attorney Bowman argued that Richard had to drive her mother back to Roanoke but Long ruled the jury verdict was more than enough reason to put her in jail and said her mother would have to find alternative transportation.