Felon faces prison for trip to firing range
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Jul 14, 2014, 15:37
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — A local man faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for having a shotgun at an outdoor shooting range because he had previously been convicted of the felony possession of a controlled substance.
On Jan. 12, 2014, Dallas James Anthony, 23, of Tipton Street, Colonial Heights, was arrested and charged with the possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, to which Anthony pleaded guilty in Charles City Circuit Court on June 20. Court records indicated that there was not a plea agreement made in this case.
At approximately 4:50 p.m., Anthony was shooting a shotgun on the outdoor shooting range at the Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area in Charles City, according to a written statement by John Goodwin, an officer with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Goodwin said that when he talked to Anthony that afternoon, he said he had his political rights restored but did not have his papers on him, according to court documents.
The VDGIF’s website states that the Chickahominy WMA shooting range closes at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays in January, and that the range is set up for people to bring their own targets and firearms to shoot.
When open, visitors to the range must either have a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current boat registration, or have an Access Permit, according to the VDGIF.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment before press time, therefore it is unclear whose shotgun Anthony had or whether his claims about the restoration of his political rights were based on any legitimacy.
While Anthony awaits formal sentencing, with his next hearing on August 22, mandatory minimum sentencing under Virginia law requires anyone who is convicted of the possession of a firearm as a felon must serve at least two years in prison.
In November 2010, Anthony was arrested in Chesterfield for possessing marijuana and painkillers in an amount enough to have him convicted of the felony possession of a controlled substance. Anthony pleaded guilty in 2011, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment with all of that time suspended for a period of 10 years.
According to court records, Anthony possessed 33 grams of marijuana, just over an ounce, and two pill bottles containing Oxycodone and Acetaminophen.
In Virginia, a first offense for possessing any amount of marijuana less than a half of an ounce is punishable as a misdemeanor with up to 30 days imprisonment and up to $500 in fines, according to the Virginia Code.
However, possessing anywhere between one half an ounce and five pounds of marijuana in Virginia is considered a class 5 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with a minimum of one year, and up to $2,500 in fines, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The punishment for marijuana can vary widely state to state. For example, the penalty for anyone in Colorado who possesses 33 grams of marijuana, the amount that Anthony was arrested with in Virginia in 2010, is a petty offense with no incarceration and a maximum fine of $100.
Over the past few decades, many organizations and prominent public figures have chastised the existence of mandatory minimum sentences, claiming that they impose blanket consequences for individualized crimes, often times with harsh results for many defendants.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been outspoken about reducing mandatory minimums in the country, and in 2013, said that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason,” as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Many parties argue in favor of mandatory minimum sentences, claiming that they ensure just punishments for offenses that demand certain sanctions, and that they are an “important law enforcement tool. They supply the police and prosecutors with the leverage necessary to secure the cooperation and testimony of low level offenders against their more senior confederates,” as written in an article on The Heritage Foundation’s website which outlines multiple sides of the mandatory minimum argument.
Patricia Nagel, Anthony’s defense attorney, denied to comment at this time on her client’s case.
“I don’t comment on pending litigation,” Nagel said.