The Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion last month in relation to a 2018 incident in Floyd County, affirming the original ruling made by then-Judge Marcus Long.
In June 2018, Rebecca Richard of Roanoke and Matthew Harris of Floyd arranged to purchase a used Pontiac in exchange for three '8-balls' of Methamphetamine from an undercover investigator of the Floyd County Sheriff's Office, a release from the Commonwealth’s Attorney on Dec. 29, 2021 stated.
Richard and Harris concocted a complicated scheme to obtain the vehicle including partial “financing” by Richard and partial ownership in the vehicle by Harris. Their plan included how they would set up the deal, transfer the drugs and escape, if necessary. On June 15, 2018, the pair drove from Roanoke to the Dollar General store in Check to make the swap.
As soon as their identities were confirmed, undercover deputies arrested the pair. Richard was found to have the drugs concealed in her bra. Both confessed the arrangement to the officers.
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On July 9, 2019, Richard plead not guilty to charges of drug distribution and conspiracy to distribute drugs and a jury trial was held in Floyd County Circuit Court. Richard did not contest the facts but claimed that her agreement did not constitute a conspiracy; her attorney asked the court to include an instruction to the jury, providing an exception to the law on conspiracy.
Judge Long heard argument from both sides and denied the request of Richard as contrary to Virginia law.
Richard was convicted and the jury recommended a sentence of 10 years. Harris subsequently plead guilty and received an active sentence of 3 years. Richard appealed her conviction.
In 2020, the Virginia Court of Appeals granted the appeal and ordered a new trial on the matter. The Commonwealth (through the Attorney General's Office) appealed that decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.
After oral argument was presented to the Court in November, the Virginia Supreme Court issued its opinion on Dec. 29, 2021. The Court ruled that the Virginia Court of Appeals had erred and that Judge Long had ruled correctly.
The Court reinstated the findings of guilt on Richard and closed the case.