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‘Doing well’ doesn’t erase obligations

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

Having apparently overcome a drug addiction wasn’t enough to keep a judge from holding a Christiansburg woman accountable for a probation violation in Pulaski County.

“Doing well doesn’t erase the six years” Shannon Marie Schofield has remaining on false pretense convictions in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Judge Marcus Long Jr. said. “I take probation quite seriously.”

According to evidence presented in Thursday’s probation violation hearing, Schofield agreed she violated probation when she left Virginia for Alabama in 2011. She said she was “highly addicted” to methamphetamine and went to Alabama with her boyfriend, who was from that state.

While in Alabama, Schofield said her addiction got worse, reaching the point she couldn’t go a day without the drug. Eventually, Schofield ended up in prison, where she served a 20-month sentence, most of which included rehabilitation programs.

In order to stay in the programs, she said she had to work hard and apply herself. When she was released on parole, she spent time at a transition home, then returned to Virginia to “face” the charge filed against her when she violated probation by leaving the state.

Defense attorney David Warburton told Judge Long that Schofield is working to pay fines owed in Pulaski County and other jurisdiction. He added that all of her drug screens have been “clean” since she was paroled.

Schofield said she has learned that she can “deal with life without drugs.” In the past, she added, “I was wrapped up in it so long it was my comfort zone. It’s not going to be easy, but I can do this. I’m not the person I was. I don’t like that person.”

She said she has a “great family and support system” to help her. “I’m not who I want to be (yet), but I’m better than I used to be,” she told the judge.

Schofield agreed with Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Travis Epps that her Virginia probation officer didn’t have a chance to get her into a program to address her addiction because “you absconded after your second failed drug screen.” He asked her whether the court should punish her for absconding.

Schofield said there are consequences for everything.

Judge Long asked her if she understands he could impose the full six-year sentence she received on the false pretense convictions. Schofield said, “Yes.”

Schofield’s sister-in-law said Schofield is a changed person. She testified they didn’t get along when Schofield was using drugs, but they do now and she trusts her. “Before it was all about her,” she testified, noting that Schofield would “lie to your face” back then.

Schofield lives with and is employed by her brother and sister-in-law, so the woman said they will be able to tell if Schofield starts using drugs again.

Warburton said his client realizes it is “time to put the old Shannon behind.” Facing the probation violation in Pulaski County was part of that process, he added.

The attorney contended Schofield absconded for only about six weeks due to the fact she was imprisoned a short time after arriving in Alabama. Since being paroled, he said, “She’s done everything Alabama and Virginia has asked her to do. She gets it.”

Warburton equated Schofield’s situation to a glass being “either half full or half empty.” He told the judge it would do no good to take away her successes and put her back in jail.

Epps said he commends Schofield for being “committed to bettering herself” and following directions from both states since she was paroled. Nonetheless, he said, “The new Ms. Schofield needs to be punished for what the old Ms. Schofield did.”

“I’m really glad you’re doing well,” Judge Long told the defendant. “However, the Commonwealth of Virginia put you on probation and you absconded. You ignored Virginia until you came back. You owe Virginia six years and I can give you six years right now. I hope you understand you have an obligation to Virginia.”

Long said Schofield absconded from Virginia for four years as far as he is concerned. “Your incarceration was your own fault.

“This is a very difficult decision because you’ve done well,” he added.

Long revoked the six years of suspended sentence and the re-suspended five years, leaving Schofield with a year to serve. He ordered that she be placed on five years of active supervised probation upon release from custody.

The judge said he reduced the amount of time he intended to give Schofield earlier in the hearing.

Long agreed to allow Schofield to report to jail Saturday rather than being taken into custody immediately following the hearing. He assured her that if she doesn’t report to jail on time she will be serving the remaining five years.

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