At the Courthouse

At the Courthouse

Jones Sentenced to 13 Years

An Alexandria jury found Eric Jones guilty of second-degree murder, sentencing him to 13 years in prison for the March 8 murder of Corey Hargrow. It was a second trial for Jones, whose first trial ended in a hung jury when one juror refused to convict him.

“Either this is the biggest conspiracy Alexandria has ever seen or he’s guilty,” said Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter. “He knows what the shooter looks like because he sees him every day in the mirror.”

Defense attorney George Wooditch argued that the Commonwealth hadn’t fully made its case, which lacked fingerprints or DNA linking Jones to the murder or a motive.

“Eyewitness testimony is not enough to convict Eric Jones,” Wooditch said. “There is no way for them to corroborate their story with the physical evidence.”

In the end, the jurors sided with the Commonwealth. They found Jones to be guilty of second-degree murder, sentencing him to 10 years. A firearm charge added three years to his sentence.

This will not be the first time Jones has spent time in prison. He was arrested in 1998 for selling crack in a Jefferson Village courtyard. He was originally sentenced to five years, but his sentence was suspended for good behavior, successful completion of the Department of Corrections Boot Camp Program and substance-abuse counseling.

When Jones violated his probation, he was arrested again. His file at the Alexandria Courthouse contains a thick stack of handwritten notes that Jones wrote while in prison trying to persuade Judge Donald Haddock to show mercy.

“My girlfriend just had out first baby girl the other day, and all I want to do is go home and hold my daughter,” he wrote. “Your honor, please give me one more chance.”

Court records indicate that Jones repeatedly violated the conditions of his probation. A Sept. 26 report from a member of the Community Services Board indicates that Jones may have had a problem managing his anger.

“Mr. Jones comes from a stable, supportive home. In spite of his stability, he became involved in drugs and his behavior became impulsive and erratic,” the report states. “Unless these deficiencies can be addressed, he will be unlikely to hold a job or manage his anger appropriately.”

Although the Commonwealth did not attempt to establish a motive for the March 8 homicide, Porter said that human history is replete with examples of murders that defy a cogent explanation.


Attempt to Withdraw Guilty Plea Denied

Aubrey “Mike” Berryman’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea was denied by Judge J. Howe Brown Jr. last week. Berryman was one of three men accused with abducting Alexandria lawyer Kenneth Labowitz on Dec. 7.

In May, Judge Brown sentenced Berryman to 24 years in prison. On Monday, Berryman tried to argue that his previous lawyer had led him to believe that he would be sentenced to eight years — the mid-point of the sentencing guidelines.

“I remember his argument, and it was skillfully done,” said Judge Brown, recalling the May sentencing hearing when attorney Carl Crews argued that the judge should stay within the sentencing guidelines. “Mr. Crews thought that his argument would carry the day. It didn’t.”

Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel played the tape of the colloquy between Judge Brown and Berryman. In it, the judge explained to Berryman several times that the court was not bound by the sentencing guidelines. He asked the defendant if he was entering into the agreement with a full knowledge of what might happen, explaining that the maximum sentence could be life plus 35 years.

“You just can’t keep playing this game” Brown told Berryman at the end of the hearing.