Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Felon gets 2 years after trip to gun range
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Aug 26, 2014, 15:59

COLONIAL HEIGHTS — A Colonial Heights felon will serve a mandatory two years in prison because he used a shotgun at an outdoor firing range in Charles City.

Dallas James Anthony, 23, was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with three years suspended for a period of no more than 10 years in Charles City Circuit Court on Friday morning.

Anthony pleaded guilty in June to the possession of a firearm as a convicted felon for an incident in January 2014 where he and a friend were firing a shotgun at the Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area shooting range shortly after it had closed on a Sunday afternoon. The shotgun belonged to Anthony’s father, according to Patricia Nagel, Anthony’s lawyer.

A plea agreement was not made in this case.

Virginia law requires that anyone who is convicted of the possession of a firearm as a felon serve a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.

Anthony received his status as a felon after he was arrested in November 2010 in Chesterfield for having more than an ounce of marijuana and two pill bottles of painkillers. He pleaded guilty in 2011 to the felony possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to three years imprisonment with all of that time suspended for a period of 10 years, according to court records.

Nagel said that she didn’t “want to be in a position of second guessing legislature” and that felons should not be allowed to possess firearms, but that the “judge ought to have discretion” in offenses such as this to decide a sentence based on the case’s individual characteristics and circumstances rather than using mandatory minimum sentences to impose a punishment.

Nagel agreed that Anthony was in the wrong merely by simply possessing the firearm, but stressed that he was on an outdoor firing range and not on public streets and there was no evidence to support that Anthony had any criminal intent in using the firearm, therefore supporting why “this case is a prime example” for exercising discretion during formal sentencing.

Following a minimum sentence recommendation by the defense, Charles City Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tyler said that he didn’t see any reason to impose a sentence any longer than two years.

After the sentencing, Tyler did not want to comment on Anthony’s sentencing or on matters related to mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia.

While in the courtroom, Anthony stood in a green jumpsuit with his hands behind his back, often bowing his head toward the ground, and calmly said “no sir” when Judge Thomas Hoover asked him if he had anything to say before hearing his sentence.

In condition with Anthony’s sentencing, he will be placed on indefinite supervised probation upon his release for up to 10 years, during which an officer may search his property or vehicle at any time. Anthony is to remain drug and alcohol free while on probation and submit to random drug and alcohol testing. His father’s shotgun will be forfeited to the commonwealth. Anthony must be of good behavior and pay court costs upon release, and he will receive credit for time served.

Nagel asked that a pre-sentence report be submitted into the record in the event that Anthony may want to challenge or appeal the court’s decision. Nagel did not know following the sentencing whether Anthony intended to appeal the case.

The subject of mandatory minimum sentencing in the United States has been a topic of debate for many years, where certain parties argue that mandatory minimums often impose unnecessary penalties for defendants, while other parties in favor of mandatory minimums claim that they ensure just punishments for offenses that demand certain sanctions.

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