Jones Sentenced

Brent Finnegan -- December 28th, 2009

It’s been almost a year since Sherry Anderson was killed by a drunk driver while jogging on Main Street. Today WSVA reports that Bethany Jones, the driver, received a 12-year (suspended) prison sentence.

The judge suepnded all but one year and seven months of that time. He also imposed four years of probation and ordered Jones to pay more than 34-hundred dollars in funeral costs to the victims family.

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41 Responses to “Jones Sentenced”

  1. Eric Gregory says:

    I hope she understands how fortunate she is getting almost 10.5 months of that sentence suspended.

    May God keep Sherry Anderson in His care.

  2. Renee says:

    Eric, I think you mean years…

    Yeah, I’m not sure how the length of this sentence was decided. I hope she at least speaks to people about the dangers of drunk driving and that she took Sherry’s life and changed her family’s lives forever. If she were able to express remorse and explain how taking a life feels, maybe it could prevent other deaths.

    I don’t know what an appropriate punishment is, but this just doesn’t seem like it.

  3. Any attorney readers care to explain this sort of sentencing? As a non-attorney outsider to the legal system, I assume this was in exchange for pleading guilty or no contest or something of that sort. How much do the preferences of the victims’ families weigh (if at all) on the prosecution and/or judicial decisions like this?

  4. I’m sure that Ms. Jones’s prior record, if clean, is what allowed this type of sentencing to occur. That, and as Brent said, most likely a “guilty” or “no contest” plea.

  5. Emmy says:

    Her prior record was not clean, she had just come off a suspended license and I believe it was for a DUI.

    I personally think she should have had to serve more of that time, and I really hope she does something to warn others about what drinking and driving does to your life.

  6. David Miller says:

    Emmy

    I believe I understand your sentiment but I must point out that the damage is done, this is an example of where restorative justice is needed. Anderson’s life gone, Jones’ life ruined and jail cannot fix these things. Our community still mourns but something tells me that more prison is not an answer, it is only a band-aid for the vengeful nature in each of us. It’s a highly personal issue like the death penalty.

  7. Emmy says:

    I understand what you are saying and I agree. It’s just one of those situations where the person had already been given a chance to change their behavior, they didn’t and someone died.

    I’m not in favor of the death penalty and I’m against jail time when something else would work, but I’m just not sure that’s the case here. I hope she proves me wrong.

  8. republitarian says:

    Maybe she wouldn’t have done it if the 5 previous folks who drank and drove and killed someone had been strung up?

  9. That’s what we need. Bring back the cruel and unusual. Iron maiden and all.

  10. David Miller says:

    Emmy

    I hope she proves you wrong too. I wish there were more options than just Jail or No Jail. Our system (for all of its progress) seems lacking in restorative capability.

  11. cook says:

    “Any attorney readers care to explain this sort of sentencing?” I’ll try.

    For those of you who think that Ms. Jones’ sentence was “too light,” you are misunderstanding what happened in court. In our legal system, a defendant is only sentenced for crimes for which she has been convicted. Some commenters above seem to think that Ms. Jones was convicted of subsequent offense DUI or, even worse, manslaughter. She wasn’t. She was convicted of (1) leaving the scene of an accident, a felony; (2) reckless driving, a misdemeanor; and (3) obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor. It was those crimes, and only those crimes, along with the facts of the case, that that the judge was supposed to consider in deciding the sentence. From my experience in the court, Ms. Jones received a high sentence for her crimes (listed above).

  12. Thanks for shedding some light on that, cook. I hadn’t actually read the charges filed against her, and didn’t realize (or notice) that manslaughter was not among them.

    I think for most of us, the what happens in the courtroom (and why) remains a mystery. At best.

  13. Emmy says:

    Thanks for that Cook, it does make a bit more sense with that in mind.

  14. BANDIT says:

    It’s terrible what happened to Mrs Anderson and my heart goes out to the family. However, was any consideration given
    to the fact that Mrs. Anderson was in the road at 5am, in the dark on a foggy morning. This brings up a safety issue. Should runners be made to run off the road? This would protect the runners and drivers. I wonder what the charges would have been against Jones had she not apparently been drunk at the time of the accident? I am not trying to down-play the stupidity of driving drunk. Or be insensitive to the tragedy and loss suffered … if memory serves me, the focus of the story before they found the hit and run driver, who evidently was drunk at the time of the accident, was the fact that Mrs. Anderson was in the road, in the dark, with a sidewalk a few feet away.

  15. Emmy says:

    The fact is, as a driver your job is to look out for dangers in the road. You are supposed to be vigilant so that if something is in the road, you can react and avoid it. I wasn’t there so I don’t know where she was in the road, and sure an accident can happen to anyone. But, if she had been sober she may have been able to avoid her in the road. Not to mention that a sober driver is more likely to stop and see what they hit.

    I hope I never hit another human being with my car, but if I hit someone knowing that there was something I was doing/had done that could have changed the outcome I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

  16. After reading what she was actually convicted of, she must’ve plea-bargained down to this sentence…especially if there was no actual charge related to her hitting Ms. Anderson with her car.

  17. Renee says:

    Why wasn’t she charged with 2nd offense DUI or manslaughter?

  18. republitarian says:

    What’s wrong with punishing someone when they do wrong? If someone is a danger to others then they should be removed, whether that’s jail, or expediting their trip to the hereafter.

    People don’t change unless they WANT to change.

    When a child does something in error, you inform them of their wrongdoing, how they are to correct future behavior…..and then pronounce sentence for the wrong already committed so they are aware of the seriousness of their transgressions.

  19. David Miller says:

    Myron, your question was “What’s wrong with punishing someone when they do wrong?” I’m not sure to whom you were asking your question but I don’t believe anyone here thinks or stated that Ms. Jones didn’t “deserve” punishment. You were talking about hanging people

    Bandit softly raised the question about the accident itself and how no one seems comfortable discussing the nature of running in the road and its inherent danger due to the obvious need to be sensitive to the Anderson family.

    Anyone want to go there?

  20. megan says:

    Went there when it happened.

    I still think it’s poor judgment to run in the road when there are other areas to safely run. Especially given the weather conditions and probability of diminished viability. You aren’t just endangering your own life. You endanger the lives of everyone else using the roads.

    After the wake up call that this incident should have been it really irritates me to STILL see people using the roads when sidewalks are available.

  21. David Miller says:

    Megan

    I agree in that I had no idea that people did this until the accident. I can’t imagine running in the road, even if it were considered normal it would be incredibly scary.

  22. Emmy says:

    I can’t imagine running in the road when there are alternatives. I see people doing all sorts of stupid things as runners, walkers and bikers. Anyone could have hit her and would have had to live with that for the rest of their life.

    But, a sober person might have been able to avoid her, and would have been more likely to stop and try to help.

  23. David Miller says:

    Emmy, you are correct in that a sober drive is far more capable to safely avoid road dangers.

    When I ride my bicycle I take the whole lane, it tends to tick people off but it is far safer. I’ve become increasingly paranoid of people since these types of accidents seem to have occurred often recently

  24. Brooke says:

    I will admit that while I do my best to run on sidewalks, when the sidewalk ends (as it periodically does in Old Town) I’m on the road. However, anytime I have to be on the road, I’m on the left hand side, facing traffic, which is the correct way to walk/run, and completely off the the side. I wear reflective gear, and I am constantly surveying my surroundings, especially, when crossing.

    Of course it’s still possible for their to be an accident – especially if someone is drunk, has their lights off and/or is driving on the wrong side of the road.

  25. Brooke says:

    (pardon the typos/mis-spellings *blush*)

  26. citydweller says:

    i personally believe more severe punishment needs to take place in cases where driving and alcohol are involved. in this case someone’s life was taken. in the more recent case of that guy driving over 100 mph (intoxicated) in the city, no one was killed ,but easily could have been and this guy already had a prior suspended license. finally another person walking also got hit this weekend in dayton by an intoxicated driver. where does it end? when is society going to get tougher on drunk drivers?

  27. Sarah says:

    Going back to Renee’s question, can anyone help us understand why she wasn’t charged with manslaughter or second offense DUI? I guess I don’t know enough about how plea bargaining works.

  28. Gene Hart says:

    Ms. Jones was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter; that charge was dropped in exchange for her agreement to plead guilty to felony hit and run, reckless driving, and obstruction of justice.

  29. seth says:

    do you happen to know why she was offered that plea bargain?

  30. Lowell Fulk says:

    Cost, Seth… Everything has a cost associated. And no one wants to pay taxes for anything anymore. Justice on the cheap… Wal Mart justice… It’s what folks want. Best get used to it…

  31. seth says:

    i’d be more inclined to think that it had to do more with the police work or the lawyering, but you may be right.

  32. cook says:

    Seth,

    I was not present in court in October when the prosecutor presented the plea agreement to the judge for his approval. Normally such an explanation is given on the record in open court, especially where it is the most serious charge that is being dismissed. Briefly looking at the DNR and WHSV reports of that hearing, no such explanation is reported. The DNR article does include this statement, “Jones’ defense team approached Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst with the proposed plea deal. Garst then took that deal to the Anderson family, which gave its blessing.”

  33. seth says:

    thanks cook

  34. eso says:

    Sarah, Renee: My recollection is she they tracked down Jones several hours later. Since she wasn’t stopped drunk behind the wheel I don’t think she could be legally charged with with DUI ( was she 0.08 BAC above or maybe at that second she was 0.07 ). Maybe her confession was enough to change that or she could have chosen to plead guilty to that.
    I’m not saying she that I think she was innocent, just that that’s the way I’ve remembered past cases with similar accusations turning out.

  35. Sarah says:

    Thanks to all those who have provided helpful clarification about the legal matters and plea bargaining – much appreciated.

  36. eso says:

    In a former life I use to run a lot. Not marathon levels, but up to ~15 mile runs. I always ran facing traffic, with bright, reflective gear. I would never run in the road unless I was someplace where I could see approaching traffic for maybe a mile or more.
    Please, I’m not saying she deserved it. My extended family knew her and I know she was a great person. It is possible to be hit no matter what precautions you take. I had a few close calls. But I know I wouldn’t be jogging in the manner the other posters described. That’s all I can say.

  37. Lowell Fulk says:

    Have any of you looked at the proposed budget cuts to our already underfunded Commonwealth Attorney, Clerk of Court, and Sheriff’s Department? And these cuts are proposed with a tax increase to reduce their depth… Now we have a Governor who has promised not to raise taxes, how much more will these departments of our Judiciary System have their budgets reduced?

    Every Sheriff, Clerk, and Commonwealth’s Attorney must also be very mindful that theirs is a finite budget. They must, just as they always have, make decisions based on priority of importance.

    At the end of the day, all of these good public servants will be forced to make the call: Is this case worth the effort and resources necessary to prosecute, or even investigate?

    We’re talking about paid hours of people’s time and expertise, and in the case of a jury trail, the payment (abysmal as it may be) of jurors…

    Marcia Garst is a fine Commonwealth’s Attorney, and she will be forced to decide which cases to pursue, when to make a deal, and which ones to let go.

    Same with Don Farley as Sheriff. How many officers can he dedicate? How many cells are available and affordable for him to use to incarcerate?

    Chaz Haywood must provide the courtroom and personnel for any and every trial. The rest of the Clerk’s services will by necessity, be cut short.

    There is a cost of doing business. There is a limit to what can be done, based on available funding. Like it or not…

  38. I’d imagine we’re going to see personnel cuts in those offices……

  39. Lowell Fulk says:

    And what do you believe those cuts in personnel will mean to the performance of duty and service?

  40. Dave Briggman says:

    Lowell, it should likely be examined the explosive growth in the size of some of the Constitutional offices, the nepotism or large families employed in some of the other offices.

    In fact, I believe the City and County would do well to relegate the Sheriff’s Department to maintaining the jails and the courts, and create a Rockingham County Police Department where local government can control law enforcement manning levels out the County, perhaps including consolidation with the Harrisonburg Police Department.

    I have to tell you, being from Arlington, I believe that, per capita, we have a huge amount of cops here….lawyers, too.

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