Before accepting a Penderbrook woman's guilty plea last week to a charge of unlawful wounding, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Alden asked her several questions.
"Are you entering your plea of guilty to this charge because you are guilty of [it]?" asked the judge.
"Yes, ma'am," said the defendant, Carrie Harris, 23.
"The Commonwealth has said it will recommend a sentence within the sentencing guidelines and will [drop] Count 2," said Alden. "Do you understand that the court doesn't have to accept that recommendation or abide by the guidelines?" Again, Harris answered yes.
City of Fairfax police arrested Harris, of the 12100 block of Penderview Lane, Fairfax, in September, in connection with a shooting that occurred Aug. 19. They charged her with malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
City police said that Harris had fired a weapon at a 16-year-old boy from Capitol Heights, Md., while he was at the Turnpike Shopping Center in the 9500 block of Main St., in Fairfax. The incident occurred around 11:30 p.m., and, following a confrontation, the victim was shot in the shoulder.
According to police, the teen said he and three other young men were walking across the parking lot when they met two young women and two other young men. Everyone involved fled after the shooting, but city police initiated an investigation after the victim — who was treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital for his injury and then released — reported the incident to police.
A warrant was then obtained for Harris, and police took her into custody on Sept. 13. She appeared Oct. 12 in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and the judge certified both of her charges to the grand jury, which later indicted her.
In court on Tuesday, Feb. 8, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ian Rodway amended the malicious-wounding charge to the lesser offense of unlawful wounding, in exchange for Harris' guilty plea. He also agreed to drop the firearm charge (which was Count 2).
RODWAY THEN described what happened the night of the crime. He said police responded to Pickett Road, near the Turnpike Shopping Center, to the report of a shooting. But the trouble had actually begun before then.
"Earlier in the evening, the victim and his friends [who'd come from Sterling] had agreed to meet another group of individuals at the 7-Eleven on Pickett Road," said Rodway. "There was a phone call, and somebody felt disrespected."
Then Harris and some of her friends arrived at the scene. "The groups moved to the Bank of America parking lot, and weapons were displayed by her group," said Rodway. "Someone within her group pulled out a weapon and pistol-whipped someone in his group."
When the victim ran away, said the prosecutor, Harris "pulled out a 9 mm pistol and shot into the air, hitting [the victim] in the back [near his shoulder]. It was a serious injury, but not life-threatening."
Alden asked if the incident was gang-related, but Rodway said it was not. The people in the two groups partially knew each other, but that was it. He said the problem stemmed from an argument and "a disrespectful tone in someone's voice."
The judge then accepted Harris' plea and found her guilty of unlawful wounding. Alden ordered a presentencing report be done on Harris and scheduled her sentencing for March 18.
Harris has been in jail since her arrest in September. When she's sentenced in March, she will have already served six months. And in her case, said defense attorney Bob Whitestone, the sentencing guidelines come out to probation.