Judge puts off plea in shooting case

Allen Whitehead

FRONT ROYAL – A man accused of shooting his daughter in the face in 2015 tried to enter into a plea deal Tuesday to avoid serving jail time.

Allen J. Whitehead Jr. appeared in Warren County Circuit Court poised to enter into a plea agreement reached between his attorney and the prosecution.

Whitehead, 56, stands charged with malicious and unlawful wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling of a firearm and discharging a firearm in an occupied dwelling. Authorities accused him of shooting his daughter in the face in August 2015. Whitehead has remained free on bond since his arrest.

The court last August scheduled a three-day jury trial that would have begun Monday. However, parties notified the circuit court late Friday afternoon that they had reached an agreement that they wanted to bring before the judge on Tuesday, both for entry of a plea and for sentencing.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. expressed to Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden and Whitehead’s counsel David Silek apprehension with moving forward on the sentencing in the case. Athey said he only knew about the case from what he read in the court file. Judge Ronald Napier, who was not available this week for the trial, has presided over the case since Whitehead’s indictment on the charges in March 2016. During much of the first year after his arrest, Whitehead underwent treatment for cancer, Silek said of his client.

Even if the court moved forward with entering a plea, Athey said he would still want to see a pre-sentencing report and to hear accounts of the incident from Whitehead and the alleged victim before he could feel comfortable issuing a punishment. Athey indicated that the agreement reached between the two parties also addressed punishment. While the details of the agreement were not available nor discussed in the court by the parties Tuesday, Athey voiced concern that such offenses involving the alleged shooting of the victim in the face and related firearms charges should result in the defendant serving some active time in jail.

Typically a judge orders the creation of a pre-sentence report to determine guidelines the court can consider when setting the punishment upon conviction. Such a report usually takes 60 to 90 days to complete. Madden told the judge it appeared Whitehead had no prior criminal history.

Athey ordered the defendant to return to court April 2 in time for Napier to preside over the case.