ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (Delmarvanow.com) -- A judge followed a jury’s recommendation and sentenced a Parksley man to 30 years in prison for soliciting perjury, participation in a criminal street gang and soliciting arson.
Tyvon “Teddy” Smith, 24, was convicted early November 2016 of the charges.
Smith was incarcerated in Accomack County jail when he wrote letters and made phone calls to fellow gang members instructing them to threaten and coerce witnesses who were to testify against them in an upcoming trial, the court heard.
His calls and letters were recorded and intercepted by jail officials.
During Smith's trial, Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Brenner produced two gang experts who explained the gang references and phrasing in letters written from Smith to “Buck” and “Shorty.”
The letters were written a few weeks before Smith was to be tried for shooting into an occupied house from a vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Gang expert 1st Sgt. Eliot Anderson of the Virginia State Police said he had spent years investigating criminal street gangs, including those on the Eastern Shore. He testified Smith was a member and one of the leaders of a subset of the United Blood Nation that operated here.
During sentencing Tuesday, Smith's lawyer asked for leniency.
“I ask the court to consider his age. He was 21 at the time,” said defense attorney James Garrett during sentencing on Nov. 14.
He said he read that the human brain does not fully develop until a person is in his mid-20s.
“He is going to mature more,” he said. “The rehabilitation aspect was not considered by the jury. The jury simply looked at black and white numbers.”
He pointed out that if Smith had actually committed arson, the sentencing guidelines would be less.
“Tonya Bundick and Charlie Smith were convicted of over 60 arsons and terrorized the Eastern Shore and they got 17 years and 15 years. Added together, it is less than the jury recommended for Mr. Smith,” said Garrett, referencing two suspects in a massive arson spree that ran from November 2012 to the spring of 2013.
The prosecution disagreed with Garrett's comparison.
“Comparing Mr. Smith to the arsonists is comparing apples and oranges,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan. “Tyvon Smith engaged in a calculated, aggressive effort to thwart justice.”
He compared Smith to the CEO of a large operation.
In a letter, he told his friends to get the gas in a milk jug so it would burn up when setting fire to a house to get witnesses against him to change their stories and not to buy the gas the same night the fire was started, Morgan said.
Morgan said Smith had 14 prior convictions as a juvenile.
“Mr. Smith has been a plague on Accomack County since his first contact with law enforcement,” he told the court. “The jury saw a danger to the county and its citizens.”
He asked the judge to follow the recommendation of the jury.
Commenting that the defense made a good argument, but apparently agreeing with the commonwealth, Judge Edward W. Hanson sentenced Smith to 30 years.