In June, Marron Nowlin stood trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court for distribution of cocaine. The jury convicted him June 23 and recommended he serve seven years in prison.
In connection with the same crime — an Oct. 27, 2005 drug deal at a Centreville gas station — he pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.
NOWLIN, 24, of 13th Place S.E., in Washington, D.C., returned to court last Friday, Sept. 22, to learn his punishment and left facing five years behind bars. But before Judge Terrence Ney pronounced sentence, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William Rhyne had a few things to say.
Noting the concealed, loaded handgun that Nowlin kept reaching for as police were trying to arrest him, Rhyne said, "This firearm could very easily have been discharged." And he said an agreement had been reached with the defense for a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for this offense.
Then, urging the judge to impose the seven years the jury recommended for the drug charge, Rhyne said, "We tell jurors they are the conscience of the community — and they have spoken."
The crime occurred at the Sunoco station at Stone Road and Route 29 in Centreville. Also involved were two Centreville women, both of the Newgate community — Nakasha Tionna Warren, 29, of 14486 Four Chimney Drive, and Casey Yvette Geter, 36, of 6016 Havener House Way.
During Geter's jury trial in Circuit Court, July 31-Aug. 2, several police detectives with the Street Crimes Unit testified about the specifics of the crime. Since they were all operating undercover, and continue to do so, Centre View cannot reveal their identities.
Unbeknownst to Warren, Geter and Nowlin, one of the detectives had set up the drug deal in hopes of arresting the dealers. "I'd arranged through a confidential informant [C/I] to buy some crack cocaine from Nakasha Warren," he explained. "The deal was supposed to be for $400 of crack cocaine."
He said Warren — who was Nowlin's girlfriend — suggested the Sunoco station as the meeting place and the deal occurred around 9 p.m. The detective said the C/I had no drugs or money of his/her own on his/her person prior to the transaction. But earlier, he'd provided this individual with county "Buy Funds" — money he'd previously Xeroxed so he could read the serial numbers on each bill.
Warren and this person then walked into the restroom for the drug buy. The detective testified that the C/I carried out two drug purchases with Warren, returning to his vehicle each time with crack cocaine.
FOLLOWING the transactions, other police officers waiting nearby stopped the drug dealers' vehicle after it left the gas station and entered Route 29. They then apprehended all three people — but not before some heart-stopping moments courtesy of Nowlin.
Geter was driving a Jeep SUV, Warren was in the passenger seat and Nowlin — who, as the enforcer, had brought along a weapon in case anything went wrong — was in the back. After blocking and stopping the SUV, police tried to get the trio to come out of the vehicle, but Nowlin ignored their orders.
"He wasn't complying with any of our commands," testified another of the detectives. "We were yelling, 'Fairfax County police; let us see your hands! Don't move!' He kept trying to reach down to the floorboard on the passenger side where there was a 9-mm, loaded handgun."
But Nowlin eventually cooperated and all three people were arrested. Each was charged with distribution of cocaine, and Nowlin was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Since then, Warren, Geter and Nowlin all appeared in Circuit Court separately for their crimes — and each one was convicted.
On Feb. 6, Warren pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine distribution before Judge Stanley Klein. And on April 20, he sentenced her to 15 months in prison (six years, with four years and nine months suspended).
On Aug. 2, Geter — who drove to and from the drug deal — was found guilty of the same offense. The jury recommended she be sentenced to five years in prison and, on Oct. 13, she'll return to court to learn her fate from Judge Arthur Vierreg Jr.
Nowlin's sentencing was last Friday, and his defense attorney, Whitney Minter, told Judge Ney that "a jury is not always privy to all the information about the defendant that the court has." If that were the case, she said, the jurors would know that "Mr. Nowlin is a devoted father who has a considerable amount of family support."
Minter said her client "suffers from some mental-health issues and substantial substance-abuse problems that need to be treated." She also noted that Warren, "who did the hand-to-hand sale of the drugs," was only sentenced to 15 months.
"That sentence was based upon a plea of guilty and was set by the judge," responded Ney. But, said Minter, "The jury considered the existence of the firearm in its deliberation and took it into account in the contemplation and determination of their sentence for the drug charge. So I ask you to consider suspending some portion of the jury's recommendation. I suggest that it would be appropriate in this case."
NOWLIN THEN stood and spoke before sentencing. "I apologize for wasting the court's time," he said. "Since I've been incarcerated, I've had a chance to think. I love my daughter, mother, sister, aunts and uncles, and this isn't the life I want to lead. My daughter looks at me differently now. I want to be a good citizen. Please, Judge, don't throw me away."
Ney then imposed the agreed-upon two years for the firearm charge. Regarding the cocaine distribution, he said, "The court gives great deference to the men and women of the community who serve as jurors — who sit through the trial, hear the evidence and listen to the witnesses."
"And it's rare that judges deviate from their recommendation," he continued. "But in this case, two things influence the court's thinking. The jury doesn't have the information contained in the pre-sentencing report, or the recommendation of the probation officer. And there's a virtual impossibility that the jury couldn't have known about the gun under the seat."
So, Ney told Nowlin, "I'm going to sentence you to seven years in the state penitentiary, with four suspended, and impose a $1,000 fine. Upon your release, you'll be placed on supervised probation for two years and ordered to undergo alcohol and drug treatment as indicated by your probation officer."
Since, by law, the penalty for the gun charge has to run consecutively to that of the drug offense, that left Nowlin with a total of five years to serve.