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Defense motion delays sentencing for ex-officer

A last-minute defense motion prompted a judge Wednesday to delay until May 2 the sentencing of a former Culpeper police officer convicted of killing an unarmed woman. 

Daniel Hawes, who is representing Daniel Harmon–Wright, filed a motion Tuesday, arguing that his client is the victim of double jeopardy. Harmon–Wright was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and two lesser felonies in the Feb. 9, 2012, shooting death of Patricia Cook.

Before the sentencing hearing began, Hawes told reporters that the two lesser felonies, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle that resulted in death and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, were essentially the same crime. Further, Hawes stated, both felonies are included in the manslaughter conviction.

“The jury was confused on these charges,” he said.

That jury of eight women and four men recommended one year in jail on each of the three convictions.

Hawes said he would argue that one year on each of the malicious shooting counts was punishing his client twice for the same crime.

After the five-minute hearing, special prosecutor Jim Fisher said he would argue that Hawes’ motion had no merit.

Neither Fisher nor Hawes had a chance to argue before anyone except reporters Wednesday. Before the hearing, the attorneys met in chambers with Judge Susan Whitlock, where, for all intents and purposes, the outcome was determined.

Russell Rabb, Fisher’s assistant, told the judge in open session that his office had not received a fax on the motion until Tuesday night and that he had first seen it Wednesday morning.

“We need more time for research on the matter so that commonwealth can be better prepared to argue,” he said.

After the hearing, Fisher was much more emphatic regarding his feelings about Hawes’ last-minute motion.

“It shouldn’t be heard at all,” Fisher said. “I wanted to get this done today.”

He added that his office would file a response within two weeks.

Whitlock told Hawes that any additional motions must be made five days in advance or they would not be considered.

Whitlock, Fisher and Rabb were not the only persons in attendance who walked out of the courtroom more than a little perturbed at Hawes. Members of Harmon–Wright’s family left mumbling about the defense attorney from Northern Virginia and complaining that he had not contacted Harmon–Wright once since the jury recommended a sentence on Jan. 30.

“I haven’t spent as much time with him as I would like,” Hawes told a reporter. “Part of the job is hand-holding, but not all of it.”

At his trial, Harmon–Wright testified that he shot Cook in the parking lot of the Epiphany Catholic School annex after she refused to hand over her identification, then rolled up his hand in her car window and began driving off.

Witnesses contradicted his testimony, saying both of the officer’s hands were outside the window when he opened fire and that he chased the Jeep Wrangler into the street, where the fatal shots were fired.

Harmon–Wright’s father-in-law reportedly flew in from California for the sentencing, while Cook’s brother, John Weigler, came down from his home in New Jersey.

“All I will say is that it was a nice day for a drive,” Weigler said.

Weigler assumed the plaintiff’s role in a wrongful death civil suit initially brought by Patricia Cook’s husband. Gary Cook died of natural caused seven months after his wife was killed.

That suit was expanded last week to include current police Chief Chris Jenkins and former Chief Dan Boring, who initially hired Harmon–Wright in 2006.

Boring is now a member of the Culpeper Town Council.

Donnie Johnston: