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Competing courtroom depictions bring verdict: 20 years jail

SoVaNow.com / October 07, 2020


Was he a ruthless drug kingpin who orchestrated the drive-by shooting of two victims who made the mistake of picking a fight with him? Or a lost soul who made bad choices while trying to support a special needs child, and worthy of a second chance?

Those were the competing portrayals offered in Mecklenburg County Circuit Court for Devon Jamaur Mosley, a Chase City man who appeared before Judge S. Anderson “Andy” Nelson on Friday for a sentencing hearing. Mosley was back in court after he was previously found guilty of carrying out a drive-by shooting and a series of drug deals in Chase City in May and June 2018.

Sentencing Mosely to 170 years in prison, with all but 20 years suspended, Nelson said he believed Mosley was redeemable but also a man with a long history of criminal misdeeds who should be punished for his actions and removed from society. Even with a 20-year sentence, Nelson explained, Mosley can emerge from prison before reaching retirement age. If he serves the full 20 years, Mosley will be 52 when his sentence is completed.

This case is complicated by the fact that Mosely’s current defense lawyer, South Boston attorney Michael Freshour, asked the court to set aside the Alford Plea that Mosley entered in September 2019 while being represented by a different lawyer. An Alford Plea is not a direct admission of guilt, but rather an acknowledgement the Commonwealth has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. After hearing the plea from Mosley, the court found him guilty as charged.

Freshour argued his client was not properly informed of the consequences and did not fully understand all of the aspects of an Alford Plea before tendering it in court.

Among the consequences, a defendant waives all rights to appeal, in return for which he may receive a reduced sentence and the dismissal of additional charges. In Mosley’s case, his sentence would have been capped at 36 years, and eight additional charges were dismissed.

Freshour also argued that Mosley’s punishment was prejudiced by statements in the pre-sentence report claiming that Mosley was a member of the T4L gang in Chase City. Freshour argued that there was no evidence to support that claim, aside from statements made by unidentified witnesses “who were likely felons,” he said. Freshour also argued that he had not been given the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against Mosley.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Nash previously agreed to forgo prosecution of the gang involvement charge against Mosley, Freshour pointed out, but the inclusion of a gang reference in the pre-sentence report “could hurt our case going forward.”

Nelson refused Freshour’s motion to withdraw the Alford Plea by his client, but the judge agreed to strike statements in the pre-sentence report identifying Mosley as a member of the T4L gang. He also noted Freshour’s “exceptions to the report.”

Speaking after the sentencing, Freshour said he planned to move forward with an appeal of Mosley’s case. If successful, Mosley’s sentence could be reduced by 14 years. He would still serve an active sentence of six years on drug charges.

The case stems from two unrelated events — a series of drug deals that took place in May 2018 and a drive-by shooting that took place on Second Street in Chase City on the evening of June 23, 2018. The shooting began when two unnamed men approached Mosley outside of Uppy’s Convenience Store and gas station at 213 W. Second Street in Chase City.

According to Nash, the entire shooting incident was captured on videotape. It shows two men, who Nash said were clearly intoxicated, as they approach Mosley. After a brief exchange of words, one man knocks a cigarette from Mosley’s mouth. All three men then entered the store and left a short time later.

The two men then drove off and were met by a “barrage of bullets” fired by an assailant that Nash said was near the Chase City-Washington Street Laundry Land laundromat at 206 West Second Street.

One or more of the men returned fire.

No one died, but one person involved in the exchange of gunfire took a bullet to his leg. Nash described the wound as “through and through with no complications.” The men who were on the receiving end of the initial burst of gunfire were “victims” of the crime, Nash added.

Spent gun casings were found by law enforcement officers investigating the scene. Nash noted that the person who opened the gun battle lived a short distance from the laundromat. He did not indicate in court if the casings matched the shooter’s gun, or the gun or guns fired by the victims.

Mosley did not personally carry out the shooting, according to Nash, but he had arranged for the hit. He said a text extracted from Mosley’s cell phone told the shooter “not to come to the gas station” — hence proof of Mosley’s involvement.

Freshour said that all the text proves is that Mosley was attempting to prevent further escalation of the fight. One man referred to Mosley “using the ‘N’ word,” said Freshour. He did not contradict the Commonwealth’s evidence or offer any explanation for why Mosley was seen on video “running away from the laundromat” with the man that Nash said was the shooter.

Neither of the men who was fired on that night was present in court Friday. Nash acknowledged they had not participated in the prosecution. He claimed they had “moved on.” Freshour offered an alternate explanation for their absence — speculating that they did not want their version of events subject to cross-examination.

“I will not speculate,” Nelson told both lawyers.

Mosley was picked up by police the day after the shooting. He was found at the home of the man who fired the shots into the car, according to Nash. There were drugs retrieved from the home at the time of his arrest.

Mosley was charged with 30 offenses — one count of assault, one count of conspiracy to commit malicious wounding, two counts of attempted malicious wounding, six counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, three counts of conspiracy to commit capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder, six counts of possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I or II drug, three counts of child abuse, one count of gang participation, two counts for possession of a gun while selling a Schedule I or II drug, and two counts of possession of a gun by a non-violent felon.

The child abuse, gang participation, and gun possession charges as well as three counts of drug possession were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

The incident from June 2018 was not Mosley’s first run-in with the law, Nash said. Between 2009 and 2014, he had 15 prior convictions, mostly for misdemeanor offenses, but also four jail incarcerations. The prior charges included possession of marijuana, driving under the influence, public intoxication, assault on law enforcement, petit larceny, driving on a suspended license, and trespassing.

Nash summed up his description of the evidence by asking, “Can Mosley be rehabilitated is the question.”

Mosley’s half-sister Latoya Oliver-Powell said she wanted to speak at her brother’s sentencing hearing to “humanize” him and show that he is “more than a statistic. He is a son, a father, and we love him.”

She and Mosley share a mother but not a father. She was raised by her paternal grandparents while Mosley was raised by their single mother.

Oliver-Powell said she and her brother, who is three years younger, were close growing up despite their disparate living conditions. The home where she was raised stressed the importance of education as the means to a better life. In the house where Mosley lived, there was domestic violence and a single mother who struggled to support her family.

She said she fully recognized that she got “a better opportunity” compared to her brother. She has two master’s degrees, has traveled the world, and works for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. Mosley dropped out of school after the ninth grade, although he later earned his GED and for a time was taking classes at Southside Virginia Community College.

Oliver-Powell admitted her brother is not perfect and that she does not agree with all his life choices. “We all have something about us that we hope no one finds out,” she added.

Mosley’s life, according to his sister, has been a series of tragedies. As a young child, he saw his mother being abused by his father in those times when the father was present in the household. When Mosley was 20 years old he was shot. The shooter was later prosecuted for the crime.

The mother of his first child and the child died from pregnancy complications. Mosley was the one who found his pregnant girlfriend collapsed at home. He tried to perform CPR without success. After that, Oliver-Powell said Mosley’s life changed. “He would never discuss what happened” though she encouraged him to get help, she testified.

“I can’t imagine how one can bring their self out of such a dark hole without help,” Oliver-Powell said.

Oliver-Powell described her brother as respectful, warm, and loving, and someone who never shares his burdens or pain with others. Those views were reiterated in three letters of support offered to the court on behalf of Mosley — one from a former teacher, one from a local doctor and the third from a former employer. All three writers described Mosley as polite and hard-working.

In 2014 Mosley became a father to a special needs child. For the first year, Oliver-Powell said Mosley was the sole caretaker for the child, who has cerebral palsy. His lack of a criminal record during that time bolstered Oliver-Powell’s testimony that Mosley “became more homebound.”

Between 2015 and 2018, when he is arrested for the shooting incident, Mosley had no record of interaction with the police or the court system. Freshour offered this as evidence that Mosley “had changed his life and was not beyond repair.”

Oliver-Powell, holding back tears told the court, “I know my brother made some bad decisions. Devon needs the opportunity to show the world what he can do. If God can look at Paul, as wretched of a man as he was and use him, then we can’t say there’s no use for Devon.”

Oliver-Powell said she and her husband were willing to take Mosley into their home and help him start afresh. “There are more options for him in the D.C. area. I would help him, see that he has the wherewithal to succeed. He’s a bright boy who can be rehabilitated.”

Nash called Oliver-Powell one of the most persuasive and articulate witnesses he has ever heard testify. He said there were other factors that necessitated Mosley spending time in jail for his crimes — not the least of which was the fact that during several of his drug deals, he had his child with him.

Mosley could have been sentenced to 220 years in prison based on the charges, but Nash said he would leave it to the judge to decide the length of his active sentence. He did ask Nelson to place Mosley on indefinite probation following his release from incarceration, and to have no contact with the victims. Nash also asked for Mosley to pay court costs of $12,673.

Freshour asked the judge for a prison sentence in the 5-8 year range, calling such a punishment “substantial.”

Attorney David Watkins, who was representing Mosley on the drug charges, told Nelson that Mosley sold drugs “to support a child with needs.” He implored Nelson to not “make this case the end of his life. Give him a chance to be rehabilitated.”

Watkins agreed that a “change of scenery” — a reference to Mosley moving away from Chase City — “would be a good thing.” It would remove him from “the wrong crowd.”

Before hearing his sentence, Mosley thanked his family for their support and for believing in him.

Nelson said of Mosley’s case has “had a long circuitous route. He entered an Alford Plea, later tried to withdraw the plea but today is the day of reckoning.”

Nelson said he saw Mosley as “intelligent” but was concerned that he “had not acted in a way that was consistent with his intelligence.” Four prior attempts at rehabilitation — a reference to Mosley’s four prior incarcerations — did not alter his conduct, according to Nelson. Additionally, Mosley could only show three years of gainful employment during his 32-year lifespan.

Nelson said he was particularly troubled by the fact that during many of his drug deals, during which Mosley was carrying a gun, he had “his child present.”

Nelson sentenced Mosley to 140 years in prison on the 11 shooting related charges with 126 years suspended and another 30 years on the three drug distribution charges with 24 years suspended, leaving him an active sentence of 20 years. Mosley must also be of good behavior for 150 years, serve five years of supervised probation, submit to drug tests and DNA sampling, refrain from drug and alcohol use for the rest of his life, pay restitution of $180 and court costs of $12,673 and have no contact with the victims. Mosley will also receive credit for time served.

Freshour did not offer a time frame for when his appeal in Mosley’s case may be heard. He also said he did not ask for Mosley to be released on bond pending his appeal since an earlier bond request had been denied.

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