Drug, gun offenses net 20-year sentence

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Kenbridge resident received an active sentence of 20 years for numerous drug and gun offenses, according to the Lunenburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Office.

Al Martino Williams, 52, was sentenced Tuesday, April 16. Judge Anderson Nelson presided over both the December trial and the April sentencing hearing, which were prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney J. Baxter Stegall. In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Nelson agreed with ACA Stegall’s characterization of Williams, and described him as “a lifetime criminal.”

Williams was convicted Dec. 19, 2018, after a seven-hour bench trial in Lunenburg Circuit Court on four felony indictments: Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute (3rd or Subsequent Offense), Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Firearm while Possessing Cocaine, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Violent Felon.

Williams was acquitted on two charges: Manufacturing Crack Cocaine and Felony Child Neglect, according to the release from the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office.

The charges stemmed from a March 9, 2018, search of Williams’ residence in Kenbridge. The Tri-County Drug and Gang Task Force conducted the search based on a warrantless search provision from previous convictions of Distribution of Cocaine from 2008. Agents from the Task Force had received information that Williams had begun to sell cocaine again after his release in 2014 from prison on the 2008 charges.

Agents went to Williams’ house and announced their intention to search his residence in accordance with the terms of the 2008 plea agreement in which Williams had waived his rights against searches for a period of five years after release from prison. Agents then showed Williams a copy of the court order authorizing the warrantless search, according to the release.

Upon searching, agents found that Williams was in the middle of preparing drugs for sale in the kitchen. They found a pot of steaming water on the stove with baking soda on the table nearby, and suspected cocaine hidden in a cereal box next to the stove. He acknowledged to agents that he was cooking crack. Agents also found baggies, scales, marijuana, and a pistol hidden in other locations in the house, along with more than $2,000 in cash hidden in the mattress.

A total of over 1 ounce of cocaine was found during the search. Agents testified that the large quantity was not consistent with quantities that just simple users would normally possess. When combined with the baggies, scales, marijuana, gun and cash, the judge found there was sufficient evidence to convict Williams of the various drug and firearm offenses.

The agents also testified that Williams’ 16-year-old son was present at the house as well. Although charged with felony child neglect for exposing him to the circumstances of the cooking of the crack, Judge Nelson chose not to convict Williams of neglecting the juvenile. The older age of the juvenile was a factor that the judge emphasized in his decision on that charge.

At sentencing, defense witnesses testified that Williams was the “backbone” of his family, and sought leniency because he had held the family together after the 2016 murder of his other son in Kenbridge. However, on cross-examination, the witnesses acknowledged that he was not employed and did not contribute money to their support.

Stegall pointed to Williams’ violent and extensive criminal history, which included a 1993 conviction for Unlawful Wounding (felony) in Lunenburg Circuit Court, a 2001 conviction for Assault (misdemeanor) in Lunenburg General District Court, a 2002 conviction for Domestic Assault (misdemeanor) in Lunenburg JDR Court, a 2003 conviction for Domestic Assault (misdemeanor) in Lunenburg JDR Court, a 2007 conviction for Possession of Cocaine (felony) in Richmond City Circuit Court, and four convictions in 2008 for Distribution of Cocaine (felony) in Lunenburg Circuit Court.

Williams was sentenced to 40 years, with 25 years suspended on the Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute (3rd or Subsequent), with an active sentence of 15 years. According to the release, 10 years of the sentence was a required mandatory minimum. He was sentenced to 10 years, with 10 years suspended on the Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute. He was sentenced to five years, with five years suspended on the Possession of a Firearm While Possessing Cocaine. He was sentenced to five years on the Possession of a Firearm by Convicted Violent Felon, five years of which was a required mandatory minimum.

Williams was sentenced to a total of 60 years, with 40 years suspended on various conditions, including: being of good behavior for 40 years, supervised probation with Virginia Department of Corrections for three years after release, drug counseling, prohibition against possessing or using drugs or alcohol, random substance abuse screening, DNA draw (required by statute), payment of costs within 25 years of the sentencing date, and a suspended driver’s license (required by statute).

Following the sentencing hearing, a civil trial was held regarding the money seized during the search. The defendant disclaimed ownership of the $2,013 found in his mattress, stating that it belonged to his daughter. She defaulted on her claim. The money was forfeited to the Commonwealth as proceeds of drug distribution.

Williams noted his intention to appeal the convictions.