Centreville's Brian Gaskins could have been sentenced to four decades behind bars for dealing ecstasy. But thanks to his attorney arguing, instead, that he be given a chance for rehabilitation, he was ordered into two diversion and detention programs.
"This was a big [drug] deal and he accepts responsibility," said defense attorney John Carroll. "But he has turned the corner. He knows he has to pay the consequences, but doesn't have to resign himself to a life of crime."
GASKINS IS just 21, but he's well-known to Fairfax County police. In January 2006, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for distributing marijuana. But that fall, police began investigating him again and, on Sept. 21, 2006, they charged him with distribution of ecstasy.
In a Sept. 22, 2006 affidavit for a warrant to search for possible evidence in his home at 15111 Olddale Road, an undercover, police narcotics detective presented details of the case against him.
Police stated that a substance sold by Gaskins to another person had field-tested positive for ecstasy. And the detective wrote in the affidavit that, following his arrest, Gaskins said he had more ecstasy at his home.
Police executed the search warrant Sept. 22, 2006 and seized a sock containing marijuana and ecstasy pills, plus a shoe full of cash. Gaskins was then released from jail on bond and his court case was continued several times.
But on May 21, his case went to General District Court and was certified to the grand jury. On July 16, the grand jury indicted him and, on Aug. 21, he pleaded guilty in Circuit Court.
Gaskins returned Friday, Nov. 9, for sentencing before Judge Jonathan Thacher. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Erin Sylvester told the judge that Gaskins had been accepted into the White Post Diversion and Detention programs — a tough, prison alternative that's proven effective in many instances.
"But the probation officer wrote [in Gaskins' pre-sentence report] that the large amount of drugs involved in this case is disturbing," said Thacher.
Agreeing, Sylvester said there were 500 pills and "it's not his first conviction. In November 2005, he was convicted of distribution of marijuana. And charges of distribution and possession of marijuana were [dropped] at General District level."
HOWEVER, Carroll said his client has "unrealized potential" and deserves a chance to try to attain it. "He's fairly articulate and educated," said Carroll. "And he needs the structure and life skills that White Post could provide; that's why it appealed to him."
Carroll said Gaskins never had a male role model, but "has the ability to successfully complete probation and do something positive with his life." He then asked the judge to "fashion a sentence with a large amount of [suspended] jail time" hanging over the young man's head.
Then, said Carroll, it would really be up to Gaskins to stay out of trouble. If not, said the attorney, "He'll be doing prison on the installment plan."
Gaskins then stood and apologized to the community, the court system and his family. "I'm sorry for everything I've done," he said.
"When you were convicted of distributing marijuana in 2005, how come that didn't get your attention?" asked Thacher. "After college, I got caught up with the wrong crowd," replied Gaskins.
"Do you realize the maximum amount of time you could receive for this case is 40 years in the penitentiary?" asked the judge. "Yes, sir," answered Gaskins.
Thacher then sentenced him to 10 years in prison, suspending all that time, and ordering Gaskins to attend the detention and diversion programs. He also placed the Centreville man on three years supervised probation.
"And if you're released from these programs on any terms other than graduation, you'll be right back in custody," warned Thacher. "I wish you luck with the programs. I hope you'll receive the tools and guidance you need."
Afterward, Carroll said the diversion and detention programs are designed to teach people "life skills and a more-disciplined approach to life." They'll also prepare Gaskins to hold jobs.
"They're two, individual programs of four to six months each," said Carroll. "I think it gives a young man the opportunity to right the ship [of his life]. And if he doesn't take it seriously, he'll be sent to the penitentiary, so this gives him incentive to succeed."