Verdicts against Abbott are reversed
by Larry S. Chowning
Judge Paul F. Sheridan reversed two felony bribery guilty verdicts Thursday, October 11, in Middlesex County Circuit Court against former Middlesex County Sheriff Guy L. Abbott.
Of 25 original indictments related to financial expenditures, property disposal and alleged bribery while he was sheriff, all counts against Abbott have now been dismissed in some manner.
Abbott was found guilty of the two bribery charges in August and he was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday. However, defense attorney Craig Cooley submitted a motion during the sentencing hearing to strike the two guilty verdicts on grounds that the Virginia statue concerning bribery requires knowledge of the act by both parties involved.
One bribery charge involved Michael E. Sampson II, currently chief deputy of the Middlesex sheriff’s office. Sampson testified that Abbott gave him a $1,200 check for some overtime work drawn from an asset forfeiture account, which contains funds from property seized during drug cases.
At the same time Sampson was given the check, Abbott also gave him a BB&T deposit slip and told him to keep $400 of the $1,200 check, but to deposit $800 into Abbott’s personal account. Sampson testified that he was uncomfortable with it and during testimony it was indicated that Sampson and Middlesex deputy Lt. Jim Ellis, who was involved in a second similar bribery charge, made deposits because they were concerned for their jobs and ranking.
Cooley argued that there was no indication in any of the court testimony that Abbott knowingly received the funds with clear intent to “punish those if they did not do what they were told.”
“The evidence does not establish Abbott’s mind-set that he would indeed fire them if they did not give them the money,” said Cooley. “The statue has not been met.”
The state prosecutor argued that Abbott’s state of mind was to fire Sampson and Ellis if they did not give them the money, which established bribery.
Agreeing with the defense, Judge Sheridan reversed his guilty verdicts and stated that Abbott’s state of mind was not established during the trial, therefore the removal of all “reasonable doubt required for conviction has not been met.”
For more details, see next week’s edition of the Southside Sentinel.