Randolph County man pleads guilty to felony charge

ELKINS – A Coalton man pleaded guilty to one felony count of receiving or transferring stolen goods in Randolph County Circuit Court Wednesday.

Vincent Paul Gibson, 28, was originally indicted on one felony count of burglary and one felony count of grand larceny in October 2013.

As part of the plea agreement, the state agreed to dismiss the felony charges of burglary and grand larceny if Gibson agreed to waive the grand jury process and plead guilty to an information on the receiving or transferring stolen goods charge. An information is a formal criminal charge made by the state, without the necessity of obtaining a grand jury indictment.

Randolph County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Shryock explained the main reason he was willing to do this was because Gibson had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of the same charge in Barbour County after being arrested for selling one of the stolen items – a gun – in his possession.

“He plead guilty to that charge and, hence, was adjudicated guilty of transferring a piece of property,” Shryock said. “When I realized what had happened in this case, I was concerned, quite frankly, that there would be a charge from Barbour County, misdemeanor, that by indication of pleading to receiving/transferring would require him not to have stolen that particular gun and if he were to plead to a grand larceny or, quite frankly, a burglary in Randolph County we would have the same series of events and transactions but with totally inconsistent judgments in each case.”

Senior Status Judge Thomas Steptoe deferred the agreement, meaning he neither accepted or rejected it, until a victim impact statement, along with the pre-sentence investigation, can be completed.

Gibson’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 1.

The maximum sentence, if the plea is accepted, is one to 10 years in a state penitentiary, a fine not to exceed $2,500, court costs and possible restitution to the victim.

Also in Randolph County Circuit Court Wednesday:

  • A Huttonsville man pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer as part of a plea agreement.

Robert Michael Sparks, 33, was indicted in February on one felony count of driving while license revoked for DUI, third offense, and one misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer.

As part of the plea agreement, the state agreed to dismiss the felony count of driving while license revoked for DUI, third offense.

Sparks was asked by Senior Status Judge Thomas Steptoe to describe what happened the night of the incident in his own words. Sparks said he didn’t remember the incident completely due to prescription medications he was on, including Xanax.

Steptoe requested that he describe the evening’s events to the best of his recollection.

“Your honor, I remember answering the door, having a few words with my son’s mother, then his grandmother and then I remember, you know, being hit, taken down and then I remember bits and pieces of just sitting at the police station and shortly after that I was incarcerated at Tygart Valley Regional Jail, your honor,” Sparks said.

Steptoe then asked Sparks’ attorney, James Hawkins, if he felt the plea agreement was in Sparks’ best interest.

“I think it’s in his best interest for a couple of reasons,” Hawkins said. “Number one, he is getting the benefit of pleading guilty to a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony, as charged in count one of the indictment (felony driving while licensed revoked for DUI, third offense).

“While he does not give a very good factual basis for the plea in count 2, I think, quite frankly the state’s stronger case, potentially, may be count 1, which is a felony of driving while license revoked for third offense DUI,” Hawkins continued. “In my investigation, he does clearly have prior convictions for that offense, at least two of which are final and which are appropriate as enhancements under 17b-4-3 which would bump that up to a felony.

“So, what we are presented with, essentially, in the end, is a Hobson’s Choice, which basically is take it or leave it. Have a misdemeanor or go forward on the felony, so by greatly reducing his exposure, I think this is clearly in his best interest and would respectfully ask the court to accept his plea,” Hawkins added.

Steptoe accepted the plea and a sentencing date was set for 2 p.m. on Oct. 1. The maximum sentence for the charge is one year in the Regional Jail Authority, a $50 to $500 fine and court costs.

Steptoe also agreed to release Sparks on his original bond, as he was taken into custody during an Aug. 12 hearing after testing positive for cocaine during a drug test. A condition of that ruling is upon his release he must immediately begin checking in with North Central Community Corrections.

According to the original criminal complaint, prepared by Cpl. M.S. Wetzel of the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police, Sparks drove his 5-year-old child away from the residence where the boy was staying without having permission to take him. Sparks was driving a 2005 Chevy Equinox, which Sparks did not own, the complaint states. Police were reportedly told the boy’s mother feared for his safety.

Police located Sparks after several hours when he returned his son to the home where the boy was staying. When police responded at the scene, “Sparks’ demeanor became unpredictable and defiant,” the complaint states.

When police attempted to detain Sparks, he reportedly “became combative and attempted to pull away,” although they were able to restrain Sparks, according to the complaint.

Sparks told police he had been driving around the local area and ran out of gas. He also told police he had “inhaled meth yesterday,” the complaint states.

Police found that Sparks’ license was revoked and he had a conviction for DUI, third or subsequent offense, in November 2012.