WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County man accused of dealing drugs avoided a jury trial and prison time by pleading guilty to reduced charges Tuesday.
Joseph Charles Kuchta Jr. pleaded guilty in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to charges of disorderly conduct and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia.
An agreement reached between Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley and Kuchta’s lawyer Brad Pollack called for the judge to reduce two of the felony drug charges to disorderly conduct and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia and for the defendant to plead guilty to the amended indictments as well as to failing to appear in court. The deal also set the punishment as imposed by the judge. Judge Kevin Black then dismissed Kuchta’s remaining drug charges at Wiseley’s request under terms of the agreement.
Black accepted Kuchta’s guilty pleas and sentenced the defendant to 12 months in jail for each misdemeanor count. Black suspended 11 months of each jail term and ordered Kuchta to remain on good behavior for 12 months. The judge said Kuchta would receive credit for time served. Black also sentenced Kuchta to 10 days in jail, all time suspended, for the misdemeanor charge of failing to appear in court.
Authorities charged Kuchta, 35, with two counts of distribution of methamphetamine and one count of distribution of methamphetamine near a school on May 24, 2018.
Wiseley provided a synopsis of the evidence she planned to present had there been a trial. The drug charges stemmed from a controlled purchase in which the Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force used a confidential informant at an apartment on South Main Street in Woodstock, she explained.
Kuchta lived near the apartment and intervened in a domestic argument between two residents moving out items from the residence, near the drug deal, Wiseley said.
“When the Commonwealth watched the video, it appears that Mr. Kuchta was standing there and was present along with another individual during the drug transaction, but there was no evidence (Kuchta) that he was actively participating or was acting in concert with (a suspect) during that deal,” Wiseley said. “Again, because of the proximity in terms of the domestic situation, I think the Commonwealth realized there was an argument that could be made ... that (Kuchta) was there assisting her with her domestic situation and, while he was in the wrong place and probably knew what was going on in front of him, he wasn’t a part of that activity.”
Authorities charged Kuchta the day after his arrest with possession of a controlled substance when a deputy found the defendant and another prisoner snorting suspected methamphetamine while in the holding cell at the Shenandoah County General District Court. Kuchta also failed to appear in District Court on Nov. 26, 2018.
Sheriff’s Office investigator D. Mason responded to a report of possible drug use in the court holding cell, Wiseley said. Deputies said they saw Kuchta and another inmate, Dylan Romick, snorting a substance in the cell, according to a criminal complaint filed in court documents and Wiseley’s information. As deputies walked into the cell, Romick stood in front of the window as Kuchta flushed something down the toilet. Officers found residue on the toilet and the substance field-tested positive for methamphetamine, Wiseley said. However, the residue was not enough to send to the Department of Forensic Science for testing, she added.
Romick pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court Aug. 8 to felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and received a sentence of two years with all time suspended and misdemeanor destruction of property with a jail term of 12 months, all suspended. Romick also pleaded guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance related to the May 25, 2018, incident in the court holding cell, and received a two-year prison sentence with one year and six months suspended.