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Tossing bag nets 2 years

January 5, 2007 12:50 am

By KEITH EPPS

A Stafford jury yesterday recommended that a woman serve two years in prison for throwing a McDonald's bag containing an ice cold drink at another motorist on Interstate 95 last year.

Jessica Julia Hall, a 25-year-old mother of three, was convicted of throwing a missile at an occupied vehicle, a felony, stemming from a July 2 incident on Interstate 95 in Stafford. No one was injured in the incident.

A jury deliberated nearly five hours over two days before announcing its decision yesterday in Stafford Circuit Court.

Hall was also convicted of three misdemeanors stemming from the incident, which some around the courthouse have dubbed the "McMissile Case."

Hall's bond was revoked yesterday and she will be in jail at least until her formal sentencing on Feb. 21, when defense attorney Terence Patton is sure to ask a judge to reduce or suspend altogether the two years Hall is facing.

Hall, whose husband is a Marine serving in Iraq, had no prior criminal record.

According to evidence presented by prosecutor George Elsasser, Hall and other family members were on their way from North Carolina to New York when they ran into stalled traffic in the North Stafford area.

A fatal accident in Prince William was the reason for what Elsasser described as "slow and go" traffic.

Pete Ballin, a Washington man who was also heading north from North Carolina, testified that he was in the left lane going only a few miles per hour when Hall passed him on the shoulder of the highway, then cut in front of him, forcing Ballin to hit his brakes to avoid a collision.

Ballin said he got into the middle lane to get away from Hall, who he said had been driving erratically for some time. He ended up passing her again when the left lane she was in came to a stop.

Ballin said that after he returned to the left lane, Hall got onto the shoulder of the road and passed him again. This time there wasn't room for her to cut back in front of him, and Ballin said he wouldn't have let her in anyway.

Ballin testified that as she passed him the second time, he gave her a gesture expressing exasperation with her driving. A short time later, he said, her car door opened and the McDonald's bag went flying past his face.

After liquid got all over him and his passenger, Eliza Fowle, Ballin said he pulled to the shoulder in part because he wasn't sure what had been thrown into his car.

Ballin said he got back onto the travel lane after a woman got out of Hall's car and moved hurriedly toward his vehicle.

He said Hall continued to follow him into Prince William County, where he saw a state trooper in the median. The trooper, Clinton Preston II, was finishing up paperwork from the fatal wreck that had traffic stalled.

As Ballin was telling Preston what had happened, Hall drove by. Preston stopped her after Ballin pointed her out.

Preston testified that Hall told him she threw the drink at Ballin because he'd angered her by cutting her off several times. She said she didn't mean to hit the passenger, Preston said.

Hall testified at her sentencing hearing that she regretted what she did, but said it was a mutual road-rage incident. She compared her actions to "giving someone the finger."

Elsasser argued that it was much more serious than that, saying such actions could lead to serious accidents, especially on a major highway.

Hall was also convicted of reckless driving, assault and battery and assault. The jury recommended a total of $1,000 in fines for those convictions.

To reach KEITH EPPS:540/374-5404
Email: kepps@freelancestar.com





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