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UPDATE: Former sheriff gets 10 months work release

Former Halifax County Sheriff Stanley Noblin will serve 10 months in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax on five embezzlement charges following a sentencing hearing Thursday morning in Halifax County Circuit Court.

In addition, Judge J. Leyburn Mosby Jr. ordered the former law enforcement officer to make restitution in the amount of $103,930.38.

The judge sentenced Noblin to three years on each of the five charges for a total of 15 years and suspended two years and 10 months on each charge leaving a total of 10 months active time for the former sheriff to serve in the Halifax County detention center with work release ordered.

Noblin was ordered to report to jail on Friday morning at 10.

In addition, Noblin was ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution on Thursday with $1,000 per month to be paid within seven years he is on probation.

He was placed on two years active probation and five years unsupervised probation following his release.

The sentence was handed down following testimony from 14 witnesses that took the stand during the sentencing hearing Thursday morning, including Noblin's wife and brother, and members of the community familiar with Noblin's service through youth activities and sports.

When given the chance to address the court, Noblin said he was ashamed of what he had done.

“I broke the trust of my family, citizens and law enforcement,” Noblin told the court. “I wish I could take it all back, but I can't he continued. 

“Every day I pray with my children and tell them don't do anything to compromise yourself.  They've suffered through this.”

Special prosecutor Eric A. Cooke of Southampton County recommended Noblin serve a sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the embezzlement charges, with eight years suspended on each charge for a total effective term of 10 years in prison.

Noting Noblin's former employment in law enforcement, Cooke said, “I'm not asking for 100 years in prison, but he needs to be treated like any other citizen.”

Cooke said Noblin has shown no effort to pay restitution, adding Noblin violated the public's trust in the “worst way.”

Noblin's attorney, Glenn Berger of Altavista, argued Noblin could not make efforts to pay restitution incarcerated in a prison setting, also citing safety issues for the former sheriff and state trooper if incarcerated in a penitentiary setting.

“A lengthy sentence is not in the best interest of society,” Berger said. “Society embraces mercy as much as punishment.  If there's any disgrace in punishment, it's what this has done to his family.”

Berger noted to the court Noblin plans to sell his primary asset, his home, and put 100 percent of the equity from that sale toward restitution.

He pointed to those testifying on Noblin's behalf, saying Noblin is needed in the community. 

Mosby noted the outpouring of community support, both through letters to the court and in testimony, in pronouncing his sentence.

“This is a difficult case,” said Mosby.  “I've been a judge a long time, and I can't remember so many letters and people coming out for your support.”

Noblin pleaded guilty in July to five embezzlement charges relating to appropriation of sheriff’s office funds for his own use, including asset forfeiture funds and drug task force funds.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the commonwealth chose not to prosecute at that time two additional related felony embezzlement charges and 14 felony forgery charges against the former sheriff.

There was no agreement regarding sentencing at the time of the plea in July.

During the July hearing, Cooke told Judge Mosby Noblin converted an estimated $103,930 in sheriff’s office monies for his own use, including $48,500 from the asset forfeiture fund and $32,500 from the drug task force fund.

Approximately $9,250 of the funds was used for legitimate expenses, according to Cooke, who expected Noblin would owe restitution in the amount of $103,930.38.

According to the plea agreement, Noblin agreed the amount of the embezzlement in the five charges exceeded $90,000, and that each case exceeded $200.

Berger and Cooke agreed the restitution in those cases amounted to $103,930.38, which will be ordered by the court at the sentencing hearing the plea agreement stated.

The prosecutor told the court in July that Noblin had met with Virginia State Police and Special Agent Accountant William Talbert Jr. on several occasions during the investigation and admitted converting sheriff’s office funds to his own use because of financial hardship.

Noblin’s wife had no knowledge of Noblin’s activities, according to Cooke.

Berger told the court in July his client admitted his guilt and has taken responsibility for his actions, adding there was no “scheme” to hide it, and that none of the embezzled monies were used for illegal activities. 

A Halifax County Circuit Court Grand Jury returned 21 felony indictments against Noblin last November, including 14 for forgery of a public record and seven for embezzlement.

The indictments came after a yearlong investigation by Virginia State Police and Special Agent Accountant Talbert.

Noblin had been under investigation by Virginia State Police since October 2011 for allegations of embezzling or misusing asset forfeiture funds.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli authorized the investigation of Noblin acting on a request from Substitute Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric A. Cooke of Southampton County.

Cooke was appointed to prosecute the case when then-Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White recused herself from the investigation.

During the course of the investigation, search warrants for bank accounts belonging to Noblin in several area banks were executed.

 

A search warrant also was executed at the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office at the beginning of the investigation.