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Cooper, Hawks plead guilty

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Two people entered pleas in Carroll County Circuit Court on May 21 to charges stemming from a 2008 vehicle vs. pedestrian incident on dead-end Spring Branch Road that left one with severe injuries.

James Charles Hawks, 37, of Hillsville was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated malicious wounding in the incident where a Ford Explorer hit Warren Clyde Meredith on the road in front of his home.

Driver Amy D. Cooper, 36, of Hillsville was charged with aggravated malicious wounding after the incident.

The incident apparently stemmed from hard feelings over the use of citizen's band radio.

Cooper and Hawks had allegedly been driving around looking for a CB user who they felt had been "keying down," or causing interference for other radio enthusiasts, according to testimony from a Virginia State Police special agent at their preliminary hearing.

This followed a threat that Meredith received over the radio that another user was out to "kick his ass."

On the night of the incident, Meredith went outside to check the area after noticing a strong radio signal coming from nearby.

After that, Meredith found a Ford Explorer with occupants stopped nearby.

The vehicle sped away and left Meredith laying injured on the road.

He had broken bones in his back, collapsed lungs, problems with his right leg and foot and spent five weeks in an intensive care unit getting treatment.

Both Hawks and Cooper entered guilty pleas to reduced charges before Judge Brett Geisler.

The charge against Hawks was amended to conspiracy to commit unlawful wounding. The maximum punishment for this crime could have been as many as 10 years in prison.

The sentence handed down for Hawks was five years in prison with all but a day suspended, active probation for 10 years and paying $20,000 in restitution to Meredith over 10 years.

Defense attorney Marty Parks noted that Hawks is on disability and he worried that the $167 restitution payment would set his client up to go to jail.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Karen Ousley Boyer noted that the amount of restitution sought has already been drastically reduced from the more than $400,000 in medical bills that Meredith has incurred.

"I don't particularly object," Parks said. "He just can't do it."

Geisler reduced the amount of the monthly payment to $125 and warned Hawks that failure to pay could mean extended probation or more jail time.

"I know you're on a tight budget but I expect you to make Mr. Meredith whole in regard to these matters," the judge said.

Cooper, represented by defense attorney Brandon Boyles, had her malicious wounding charge reduced to accessory after the fact, a misdemeanor.

Boyles said that Cooper would enter an Alford plea, which means she admits there's sufficient evidence that the prosecution could convince a judge or jury of guilt.

The prosecutor and defense recommended a suspended 30 days in jail and 12 months good behavior for Cooper. She is also not to have contact with the Meredith family and she is banned from Tri-Area Health Clinic.