Two McLean men pleaded guilty last week to a January robbery in a Centreville home. They are Michael T. Little, 27, and Andre Johnson, 28, both of 6317 Old Dominion Drive.
They both appeared Tuesday, June 6, before head Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Michael McWeeny. And prior to accepting their pleas, he made sure they were entering them freely and voluntarily, and because they were, indeed, guilty as charged.
"DO YOU understand there's a range of state sentencing guidelines for this offense, but I'm not bound by them?" he asked each one. "Do you understand that, by pleading guilty, you lose your right to a trial by jury and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses?"
Both Little and Johnson — whose cases were heard separately — answered affirmatively. Although each man could receive up to 20 years in prison for their offenses, plea agreements of suspended sentences plus probation have been made in each case.
"But do you understand that recommendation is not binding upon me?" asked the judge. "And even if I reject it, you cannot withdraw your plea. Do you understand that?" Again, both men said yes.
The incident occurred Jan. 11, around 1 a.m., in the 6200 block of Summer Pond Drive in the Centre Ridge community. According to police, Johnson, Little and a female knocked on the door of an apartment there and, when someone answered, they "forced their way into the apartment, wielding a gun, a bat and a knife."
In court last week, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kelly Pearson, prosecuting Little, said the trio went to that location to buy drugs. "When [the victims] didn't meet [Little] in the parking lot as previously arranged, he went up to the apartment," she said. "Then, the defendant, Johnson and [the woman] restrained the victims with a phone cord."
AFTERWARD, said Pearson, the intruders stole items from one of the victims, including a cell phone, keys and gold chains. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Camille Turner, prosecuting Johnson, presented the same scenario in his case. She, too, said the crime stemmed from a drug purchase gone bad and the defendants "burst into the apartment."
After hearing the details of each case, McWeeny found Little and Johnson guilty and set their sentencing for July 20. He also allowed each man to remain free on bond, provided they cooperate fully with the probation office in the preparation of their pre-sentencing reports.
At the conclusion of Johnson's proceedings, his attorney, Brian Drummond, offered some heartfelt words about police Det. Vicky Armel, who was killed by a gunman, May 8, at the Sully District Station — and who made a big impression on Drummond.
"Judge, for the record, I just want to say that Det. Vicky Armel was the officer handling this case, and she was one of the nicest, most professional detectives I ever had the opportunity to work with," he said. "We owe her a great debt of gratitude."
Nodding his head in agreement, McWeeny said, "Duly noted."