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Halifax County Commonwealth Attorney lashes out at sentencing

Halifax County Commonwealth Attorney Kim White expressed disappointment Thursday with a ruling by Halifax County Circuit Court Judge Joel C. Cunningham in which the judge reduced a jury-recommended six-year prison term to an active 19-month sentence.

Thirty-seven-year-old John Henry Brandon of South Boston was sentenced Thursday to 19 months in prison for a third offense of driving while intoxicated and driving while his operator’s license was suspended.

Following a sentencing hearing Thursday in Halifax County Circuit Court, Judge Cunningham sentenced Brandon to an active 16-month sentence on the driving while intoxicated charge and an active three-month sentence for the charge of driving on a suspended operator’s license.

Thursday’s ruling resulted in the Court suspending almost four and a half years of the six-year prison term recommended by a Halifax County Circuit Court jury for the convictions.

Following a trial in Halifax County Circuit Court on July 19, a jury recommended a five-year sentence for the conviction on the driving while intoxicated charge and a 12-month sentence for the conviction on the charge of driving on a suspended driver’s license.

“In my 22 years as an attorney, I have never had a court not follow the recommendation of a jury,” said White in a news release.

“The jury spoke loudly and clearly for the citizens of Halifax County when they recommended the maximum sentence allowed to be imposed on Mr. Brandon,” White added.

“It is very disappointing that the court did not follow that recommendation or the argument of the Commonwealth and reduced the sentence,” White continued.

According to the press release, White presented evidence at Brandon’s trial from Trooper K.R. Martin of the Virginia State Police and from Melissa Kennedy of the Department of Forensic Science.

“Among the evidence presented was that Brandon, on the afternoon of Feb. 12 of this year, drove a truck on Sinai Road while he had a blood alcohol content of 0.25, more than three times the legal limit,” White said in the release.

Back in July, White stated “Clearly the jury agreed with the position of the Commonwealth that Mr. Brandon’s present behavior and criminal history demonstrated that he created a danger if he were allowed to remain on the streets.”

“At the sentencing hearing, the Commonwealth reminded the court of Brandon’s criminal history, which included two prior driving while intoxicated offenses, a refusal to submit to an alcohol test, two obstructing justice offenses, a resisting arrest offense, a disorderly conduct offense, an assault on a family member offense, three driving while revoked offenses, and two drunk in public offenses,” said White in the press release.

The Commonwealth, according to White, argued to the court that Brandon lied to the jury when he testified at trial that on the date of the offense he had been out in the hot sun tending, weeding and watering tomato, corn and pepper plants — the offense date being on a winter day in mid-February.