By Preston Knight
WOODSTOCK -- New charges brought against a Shenandoah County man in Circuit Court may be double jeopardy, his attorney argued Wednesday morning.
Direct indictments charging Brian M. Heister, 29, with two counts of distribution of psilocyn (mushrooms) and one count of distribution of marijuana were handed down last month, and the defendant and his attorney, Ilona Beatty, made their first court appearance on those accusations Wednesday.
Beatty represented Heister during his court case on three other charges that were prosecuted in 2009 -- unlawful wounding for his participation in a gunfight with another man, distribution of psilocyn and conspiracy to distribute psilocyn.
Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison, with one year to serve, on those charges, telling him at the time that Beatty did an "excellent" job for him. Heister had indicated he began dealing psilocyn because he could not work following the Dec. 27, 2007, shootout, which left him with severe injuries to one leg that almost resulted in amputation.
The new charges, Beatty said Wednesday, may have been encompassed in her client's plea agreement from several years ago and could qualify as double jeopardy, which prohibits a defendant from being tried on something he or she has already been acquitted of.
"I'm not even certain he should be charged with these offenses," she said.
According to court records, the offense dates for the new charges are Nov. 21, 2008; Nov. 25, 2008; and Dec. 18, 2008.
General District Court Judge Amy Tisinger worked the earlier case. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Alger is prosecuting the new set of charges and was not aware of the old plea agreement's details.
Hupp asked Beatty to file a written motion, which will include her request for transcripts from Heister's sentencing.
Heister has had a role in a number of prominent local criminal cases, including the shootout, for which neither he nor his opponent, Earl Rasberry III, were sentenced to time behind bars. He had entered an Alford plea of guilty in that matter, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a conviction.
Heister also cooperated in the investigation of Edinburg resident Chad Murden, who ran the largest indoor mushroom-growing operation of its kind in the state, and testified against convicted murderer Donna Hockman in her murder trial in Rockingham County Circuit Court. Hupp actually sentenced Heister on the low end of sentencing guidelines for the drug charges in 2009 because of his cooperation.
The case with the latest drug charges is scheduled to come back to court July 13.