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Jurors urge 7-year prison sentence, $6,000 in fines for Culpeper man
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
A jury is recommending that a Culpeper man spend 90 days in jail and pay a $1,000 fine for shooting off a gun in an apartment complex parking lot, then added seven more years and a $5,000 fine for a cocaine charge that arose from the incident.
In a 12-hour trial that ended late Wednesday night, 23-year-old O'Dell Tyler was convicted of discharging a firearm in a public place and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
The four-man, eight-woman jury found Tyler not guilty of possession of marijuana and reckless handling of a firearm.
Tyler's prior criminal record includes convictions for robbery, possession of cocaine, unlawful entry, petit larceny and failure to appear. Judge T. Markow may choose to add to his prison time by activating several previously suspended sentences, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dale Durrer, who prosecuted the case.
Town police were called to the Belle Court Apartments on Dec. 7 by someone who reported hearing gunshots.
According to court testimony, officers found Tyler sitting in a car in an isolated area of the parking lot. A check determined that he was wanted on an outstanding warrant, and Tyler was taken into custody.
A .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol and a bag of marijuana were discovered on the floor on the passenger side of Tyler's vehicle. Tyler was placed in the back seat of a police cruiser.
When he began "fidgeting," an officer opened the door to speak with him and noticed a bag of powdered cocaine on the suspect's lap and a pair of scales on the floorboard at his feet, according to court testimony.
Tyler told police that he did not know where those items or the three plastic bags tucked inside his right sock came from.
Gunpowder residue on his left hand was key evidence in conviction for discharging a weapon in public. Six shell casings found at the scene were also damaging evidence.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that the gun had been stolen almost four years earlier.
A date for Tyler's sentencing has not been set.
"The jury carefully considered all the evidence and sent a message with its sentence," Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Walther said.