Two cases of alleged attacks on police officers came to an Albemarle County courtroom Thursday morning, and were handled in a less severe fashion than two recent Charlottesville prosecutions.
One case heard Thursday in Albemarle General District Court was reduced to a misdemeanor, while the other was continued so the accused could get mental health treatment.
The case of 51-year-old Fairfax resident Kerry Lynn Asbury began on Sept. 4 beside a country club golf course. Albemarle Police Officer E.E. Keyser alleged in his sworn statement that he was responding to a call to a residence in the Farmington subdivision about a daytime disorder and was attempting to arrest an allegedly drunk Asbury when she began wriggling and resisting arrest.
"She continued to struggle and resist the cuffs," Keyser wrote. "She aggressively bit my shoulder. I felt her teeth on my shoulder through my uniform. One officer pushed her head back off my arm and said, ‘Do not bite him.’"
This was not Asbury’s first alleged attack on law enforcement. Five years ago in the tiny Pennsylvania hamlet of Watsontown, Asbury yelled obscenities, threatened to kill an officer and asserted that her own law enforcement credentials precluded her arrest, according to a release from the Watsontown Police.
She was sent to Mifflin County Prison before posting $15,000 bail, according to that release and records from the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas. The Pennsylvania court records show that Asbury received 12 months of probation in the incident, which police allege began after she was thrown out of a Watsontown bar. In separate incidents, the Pennsylvania court records also indicate that Asbury was convicted in 2018 of driving while intoxicated and convicted last year of harassment.
Thursday morning in Albemarle General District Court, prosecutor Shannon Neal called what happened at Farmington a "minimal assault" and, noting that Officer Keyser was not injured, agreed to a plea deal.
Neal’s deal dropped Asbury’s drunk-in-public and resisting-arrest charges and downgraded the felony assault charge. Asbury pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery and agreed to a sentence of 60 days, with all jail time suspended with the provision that Asbury agree to a year of good behavior.
Asbury agreed; afterwards she paid $86 in court costs and walked free.
By contrast, two recent attacks on law enforcement in the City of Charlottesville, which has been suffering widely-publicized morale and attrition problems among officers, have not found plea deals. Instead, prosecutors have refused to deal and won a pair of felony convictions in September from first-time offenders.
After court Thursday, an attempt to interview Asbury and her Orange-based attorney, Amy Harper, were unsuccessful.
"You don’t know anything about me," said Asbury.
Attacks on law enforcement have become a national issue in recent years, as they have resulted in deadly outcomes when an officer allegedly feels threatened or recklessly turns a gun on the attacker. That did not happen in either of these cases.
In the other alleged attack on law enforcement that came to court Thursday, the defendant was 41-year-old Michael Jerome Cooper, who has an extensive criminal record in both Charlottesville and Albemarle.
Cooper has felony convictions that include cocaine possession, trespass, theft and wounding by strangling, according to local court records. He appeared in court Thursday via video feed from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Whether he is incarcerated on pre-trial detention or serving sentences reimposed from some of his nine parole violations was not stated.
Cooper’s case came up immediately after that of Christoper Darnell Jones Jr., accused of murdering three University of Virginia student-athletes. Handcuffed and answering questions only with nods, Jones learned the date for his preliminary hearing from a different judge.
Judge Matthew Quatrara instantly lifted the mood when he stepped behind the bench and launched Cooper’s case with a volley of questions.
"You like sports? You like the NFL?" Quatrara asked Cooper. "Who’s your team?"
"Dallas," Cooper answered on the video feed.
"Okay, you’re Dak Prescott," said Quatrara, referencing the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback, "and it’s training camp for you."
Quatrara went on to push Cooper toward what’s called the "therapeutic docket," a recent effort to connect offenders with mental health treatment that would curtail their jail time and prevent future offenses.
"I need you to 100 percent cooperate with anyone who wants to talk to you," Quatrara told the now-smiling Cooper.
"Thank you, your honor," said Cooper.
The warm words stood in contrast to what is alleged in Cooper’s arrest warrant. On April 4, Cooper is alleged to have kicked an officer, pinched another to the point of drawing blood and spat upon the three officers attempting to arrest him for disorderly conduct in a parking lot at Squire Hill Apartments.
The initial call for service, wrote arresting officer Aaron H. Pace, noted that Cooper was experiencing mental issues. The judge said that Cooper will return to court to discuss release next month.
"Keep that positive attitude," said Quatrara, "and I’ll see you back here on January 19."
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