Area man sentenced for causing bodily injury

Defendant claims mistreatment, being overmedicated at RSW Jail
Reese Varney

Reese Varney

Reese Varney

WOODSTOCK — A man sentenced Wednesday to 10 months in the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail sobbed and begged the judge to allow him to serve time in a mental health hospital instead of the jail.

The sentence imposed on Reece Kirk Varney Jr., 67, of New Market, was unusually light under state sentencing guidelines. Varney pleaded guilty in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to maliciously causing bodily injury, an offense that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The plea agreement reached by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristen Zalenski and David Downes, Varney’s attorney, also called for Varney to plead guilty to a drunk driving charge that would be dropped a year from now if Varney successfully completes his jail sentence and stays out of further trouble with the law.

Several other charges were dropped under the plea agreement, which was accepted by Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp.

Zalenski cited Varney’s absence of any previous criminal record, his age, mental and physical problems, and the victim’s escape from serious injury as the reasons for the plea terms. Downes also cited Varney’s health problems and what he described as his client’s “extremely problematic” treatment at the jail as reasons for Hupp to accept the plea agreement.

Varney puffed heavily as he entered the courtroom and shuffled across the floor to the defense table. He struggled to his feet as he spoke to Hupp and then sat back down after a few minutes, apologizing for his inability to remain standing.

The victim in the case, James Fields of New Market, was also in the courtroom and told Hupp that the plea agreement was acceptable.

Fields suffered minor cuts to his arms and legs when Varney ran into him with a three-wheeled motorcycle at a gas station and convenience store at 3199 Senedo Road on Sept. 5. Fields and Varney had been feuding before encountering each other at the gas station.

Authorities say the motorcycle’s front wheel passed between Fields’ legs, pinned him against his truck and sent him falling over the motorcycle’s windshield.

Varney left the station on foot but a sheriff’s deputy found him a short time later south of the collision scene. Zalenski said a breath test showed Varney with a blood alcohol level of 0.09. The legal limit for driving in Virginia is 0.08.

Varney has been in the RSW jail since his arrest, except for a few days in early September when he was released on bail and then jailed again for violating the terms of his bail.

Hupp told Downes and Zalenski he had “some reluctance to accept this type of disposition” for the drunk driving charge, but noted that the offense was committed on the private property of the gas station and convenience store instead of a public road.

Varney’s wife, Mary Jane, has pleaded repeatedly with Shenandoah County judges for her husband’s release from the jail, where she said his mental health has suffered as a result of the jail staff denying him a chance to obtain prescribed medication for anxiety.

Hupp and General District Court Judge Amy Tisinger have sent letters to the jail administration making plain their concern for Varney’s state of mind and the availability of treatment and medication.

The issue surfaced again at the plea hearing as Varney broke down in tears while describing his treatment at the jail. This time Varney said he has been receiving medication, but at varying levels.

Hupp asked Varney whether he understood the plea agreement and accepted its terms.

“I understand everything going on around me, but I’m overmedicated,” Varney said.

Varney said the jail staff retaliated against him by transferring him to another cell after stories appeared in The Northern Virginia Daily about his earlier court appearances where the medication issue was discussed.

Varney said he broke his glasses when the jail staff shoved him to the floor as he was being transferred to the new cell.

At one point, Mary Jane Varney rose from her seat in the courtroom as her husband wept and struggled to finish speaking.

“Please send me to a hospital where I can be clean and not shiver at night,” Varney told Hupp.

“I realize you’ve had a rather rough go in the jail,” Hupp replied.

But the judge also added that the terms of Varney’s two-year probation term are “non-negotiable” and reminded the defendant that he had refused to let jail staff fingerprint him until just before his court appearance.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

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