Man gets eight years

Published 8:58 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

COURTLAND—A 31-year-old man who was convicted of dragging a Franklin police officer alongside his car in a December 2006 incident must spend at least eight years in prison for the offense, a judge said Tuesday.

Southampton Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker sentenced Armando Thomas Hicks on three felony charges, giving a brief lecture in the process.

“You are an intelligent man who should have done more with his life,” Parker said. “I do not understand why young people today believe that drugs or guns are the answer to everything.”

Hicks was convicted in April of malicious bodily injury of Franklin Police Officer C.A. Fellers, as well as possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Hicks and his wife had been sitting in a rented Dodge Neon outside of the Deli Express in Franklin when Fellers approached the car and shone a flashlight inside, the officer testified in April. When he saw what Hicks was doing, he opened the car door and tried to extricate the man from the driver’s seat.

Hicks then put the car into gear and sped away. Fellers’ arm was caught in the seat belt, and he was dragged across the street and into a curb before being knocked loose. As he was being dragged, the officer pleaded with Hicks to stop the car.

“I want to make a formal apology to Officer Fellers, my family and friends and the community,” Hicks said before he was sentenced Tuesday, adding that he hoped the court would take into consideration his three children, who would be without their father during whatever prison term Hicks served.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke pointed to Hicks’ previous felony weapons and drug convictions as evidence of the need for a long sentence for his most recent crimes. Cooke asked for active prison sentences totaling 18 years.

Officer Fellers “suffered significant injury, which is still ongoing,” he said. “The injuries were not the officer’s fault. I know the court knows that; the defendant needs to know that, too.”

Defense attorney Robert Hagans of Norfolk, disagreed with the idea of holding his client entirely responsible for the incident.

“It’s easy to say, ‘You were indicted, you were convicted, everything that happened was your fault,’” he argued. Hagans then raised many of the same questions that had been part of his unsuccessful defense of Hicks in April, adding that the officer had been dragged 80 feet, “not one or two blocks.”

“I don’t think (Hicks) had any intent to hurt anybody,” he said. “Things just went in a bad way.”

His client, who graduated from Franklin High School with a 3.385 grade point average and then went on to four years in college, had made some bad decisions and failed to take advantage of his education, he said.

“Though he has not in life dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, he has had some very positive moments in life,” Hagans added.

Judge Parker agreed, at least in part: “You’ve got the ability to do so much more with your life.”

Parker sentenced Hicks to 15 years, with 10 suspended, on the maiming charge; five years, with four suspended, on the drug charge; and to the state’s mandatory two years on the gun charge. All sentences are to be served consecutively, and Hicks will be under supervised probation when he is released. He also must pay court costs and make restitution to Fellers for his out-of-pocket medical expenses.