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Lynn Brownley now a twice-convicted felon

On Monday, Oct. 25, Lynn C. Brownley appeared in the Westmoreland County Circuit Court for his trial on the charge of possession of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II. This would be the second time Brownley was faced with the same charge. His last conviction was in 1989, and resulted in his stepping down as Commonwealth’s Attorney of Westmoreland County.

There was a written agreement signed by Brownley that he was pleading guilty to the charge, but there was no agreement as to sentence nor did things go as Brownley had hoped during the hearing. Brownley’s attorney asked the court not to find him guilty during the Monday hearing, but that was not to be.

Matt Britton, Commonwealth’s Attorney of King George County, who was appointed special prosecutor for this case, gave a statement of the evidence. He said that in July of 2009, it came to the attention of the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department that a lot of drugs were moving through the Oyster House, just outside Colonial Beach

The Oyster House, as it was called, was the home of Allen Powell. Powell, Jack Stayner, Kip Young and Christie Greer ran the operation. Drugs were brought in on Wednesdays and the parties stayed, usually until Saturday, selling drugs — marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs.

On Aug. 21, 2009, someone called the Sheriff’s Department and reported that a member of the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors, whose name he did not know, was habitually coming to the Oyster House, using drugs and sometimes supplying prescription medicine to others there.

The investigation continued through September of 2009. The police received more reports and it was clear that Lynn Brownley, District 3’s representative on the Board of Supervisors, was the person identified in August. Someone from the house, talking to Brownley on the telephone during that time, mentioned pills. Brownley said to call them fishing equipment or fishing tackle, not to mention what they were really talking about, because someone might be listening. He was right. The police were listening.

Bill Lewko of the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department, set up a buy with a confidential informant. The informant was supposed to meet Brownley at noon on a certain day, but Brownley turned up between 9 and 10 a.m. looking for his drugs. When he was told that the person acting as informant had not yet arrived, he became furious and left in a huff.

The sting was called off. However, all of the others involved admitted their involvement in bringing in and selling drugs at the Oyster House. They also stated that Brownley came there habitually, used various drugs, and sometimes brought pills, which he gave to people.

After his arrest, Brownley also admitted to substantially the same facts as the witnesses. It was reported in the March 5, 2010, in the Free Lance-Star, that Brownley told Britton he used marijuana, cocaine and other drugs “daily if he could get his hands on them.”

Britton went on to say that, except in one case, the commonwealth cannot link a specific pill with Brownley in spite of all the surrounding evidence. The best they could prove was an incident of possession with the intent to distribute as an accommodation (which carries a lesser penalty than the usual charge of distribution). Therefore the commonwealth had agreed to Brownley’s pleading guilty to simple possession.

 

Britton also said that when questioned by the police, Brownley initially said he had not used cocaine in 20 years. Under sharper questioning, he had admitted he used it once. A person, who he could not now recall, put a line of powder cocaine on the table and he just used it. He did not know why.

Judge Richard D. Taylor, Jr. then asked whether the defense agreed with Britton’s statement of the evidence. Attorney Frank L. Ferguson, who represented Brownley, said that they did not agree to all that Britton said, but that they stipulated (agreed) that the evidence, if presented, would be sufficient to convict him.

Ferguson asked that the plea agreement be accepted. He went on to say that Brownley had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, that he had suffered greatly from his first drug conviction, that he had been embarrassed and lost his profession, and that he had been sought out to run for the Board of Supervisors and been elected by a significant majority. He then asked that the court not actually find Brownley guilty until the sentencing hearing because Brownley had work he needed to do.

Britton objected to that. He pointed out that Brownley had asked for a trial late in the fall giving the same reason. According to their written agreement, Brownley was to be found guilty at this hearing.

“Does Mr. Brownley want to withdraw his plea of guilty?” the judge asked.

Ferguson said Brownley did not want to withdraw his plea.

Then Britton moved the court to revoke Brownley’s bond, which would mean that he would stay in jail until the sentencing hearing. Britton argued that Brownley’s was not a garden-variety drug case. Brownley, he went on to say, was a twice-convicted felon. When Judge Joseph E. Spruill released him from probation, he said that it was because Brownley had his problem under control. It is not under control by Brownley’s own statements. There is an indication that he is likely to go out and continue to use drugs.

Ferguson countered that Brownley had voluntarily placed himself in a pre-trial program through the Rappahannock Regional Jail through which he was monitored and supervised. Brownley had gone to a couple of drug rehabilitation sessions. Ferguson said that he had done the sentencing guidelines and they did not recommend any time in jail.

Britton argued that the guidelines were not official and that, in this case, they should not apply.

Judge Taylor said that he saw no reason for the court to believe Brownley would not appear for his sentencing. He did require Brownley to remain under supervision and submit to drug testing. He also called for a drug test to be done before Brownley left the courthouse.

The test was done and Brownley was found not to have drugs in his system.

Brownley’s sentencing will take place, probably in January, on a date to be set by the attorneys and the judge by conference call.

 

By Peggy Garland 

 

 

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