Virgil Edwin Watson III, 22, of 1041 Martin St., Stephens City, convicted by a jury in March on three counts of felonious petty larceny — which involved stealing merchandise from Target valued at less than $200 — after having previously been convicted of larceny two or more times; and one count of grand larceny involving stolen goods from Target valued at $200 or more. Watson was indicted on those charges in December. After rendering its verdict, the jury recommended that Watson be sentenced to 81⁄2 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the shoplifting offenses were committed during four separate incidents between May 10 and July 14, 2008. Watson pleaded not guilty to all charges when he was arraigned in January. According to prosecutors and information contained in court records, Watson and as many as three accomplices entered the Target store at 10 Crooked Run Plaza numerous times and stole items such as video game accessories and memory sticks. A co-defendant in the case, Matthew Taylor Edwards, 22, of 108 Downing Circle, Stephens City, also was indicted in December on similar charges as Watson.
Edwards, who pleaded not guilty to all charges in March, was supposed to have a bench trial Tuesday morning. However, he instead pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny as part of an agreement he and his attorney, Daryl Funk, reached with the commonwealth. Three other counts of misdemeanor petty larceny against Edwards were dismissed as part of the plea deal. Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Edwards to a year in jail, and suspended the entire term. Hupp also ordered Edwards to serve one year of supervised probation.
Watson, however, received a stricter punishment for his role in the larcenies.
Although Hupp indicated that the jury’s recommendation was harsher than sentences that are usually given in these type of cases, he nonetheless sentenced Watson to a total of 81⁄2 years in prison. The judge suspended a four-year sentence he levied for the grand larceny charge, leaving 41⁄2 years for Watson to serve. Hupp also ordered Watson to serve four years supervised probation upon his release and pay $514.88 in restitution, a portion of which he and Edwards will be jointly responsible for.
Watson’s attorney, Kathleen Griffin, pointed out the disparity between the sentences given to Watson and Edwards during Tuesday’s hearing. However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicholas L. Manthos said the jury recommended a rational punishment for Watson based on testimony and video evidence that proved he and his accomplices kept going back to Target with every intent to steal merchandise.
Manthos also argued that Watson had a chance to take a much softer deal that would have resulted in a lighter sentence. Instead, Manthos said, Watson freely chose to reject any plea agreement and put his fate in the hands of a jury. Manthos said it was not clear who was the ringleader of the group who stole items from Target.
The range of punishment on each petty larceny charge Watson was facing is one to five years in prison, while the sentencing range for grand larceny is one to 20 years.