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Reduced jail term to be sought

February 21, 2007 12:00 am


Jessica Hall got two years in prison for tossing a McDonald's bag into a car.


UPDATE: Judge rules woman should be released today.

Jessica J. Hall has spent a lot more time in Virginia than she ever expected, and she hasn't enjoyed it one bit.

She and others are hopeful that today is the day she'll finally be able to return to her Jacksonville, N.C., home.

Hall, 25, has been in the Rappahannock Regional Jail since Jan. 4, the day a Stafford County jury found her guilty of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle.

The jury recommended a two-year prison sentence, the minimum sentence according to the statute under which Hall was charged.

Judge Frank Hoss will formally sentence Hall today in Stafford Circuit Court, and many people affiliated with the local legal system believe Hoss will reduce the sentence to the time Hall has already served, something defense attorney Terence Patton is sure to request.

"That would certainly appear to be the right thing to do," attorney Mark Murphy said. "Everybody knows [the two-year sentence] is just wrong."

The missile--a McDonald's bag containing an ice-cold drink--was launched into the car of another motorist in stalled traffic on Interstate 95 on July 2.

Hall, who was traveling north with her three young children and her pregnant sister, got into an altercation with another motorist involving gestures and abrupt lane switches.

The stories vary on exactly what happened, but everyone agrees that it ended with Hall throwing the bag, spilling drink all over the passenger in the other car.

The case has been dubbed the "McMissile" case and has attracted regional and national attention.

Court sources said CNN and several Washington television stations had requested cameras in the courtroom for the sentencing. No decision has been made on that request.

At Hall's trial, the jury had the option of convicting Hall of "unlawfully" throwing a missile, which would have given them the option of giving Hall no jail time.

But the jury was not aware of the two-year minimum before agreeing on the more serious charge.

Jim Ilijevich, a local defense attorney, said the missile statute is one of several that need some fine-tuning.

He said Hall was properly charged as the statute reads, but, "That statute is ridiculous. It doesn't really distinguish between a cup of ice and a bullet, and I can't believe this is what the legislature had in mind."

Ilijevich said he finds it "unfortunate" that Hall, who had no prior criminal record, is now a convicted felon.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404

The Missile statute

Virginia�s missile law has been on the criminal books since at least the 1920s, when it became punishable �for shooting at or throwing stones or other missiles at any train, car, vessel, motor or other vehicle.�

The punishment has re mained the same�two years to 10 years�through the years. At times the sentence was mandatory. but that was changed a few years back.

Some wordiness was deleted. At one point, the law said one �shall be deemed to be guilty.� More recently, the law says they simply are guilty.

The wording has changed on several occa sions through the years and more potential victims added. For example, added was �or cars on any railroad or other transportation com pany...� Watercraft became part of the law by 1960.

The statute has never mentioned McDonald�s or soft drink cups.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.