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Phipps free after verdict overturned

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INDEPENDENCE — Tony Byron Phipps II, 20, of Independence has been released from police custody after winning his appeal of a malicious wounding conviction and being granted a new trial.

Phipps appeared in Grayson County Circuit Court Dec. 4 for a bond hearing. Judge Brett Geisler set a secured bond of $25,000, which was later posted. Phipps was released after serving more than 12 months in prison.

He was convicted in May 2007.

A new court-appointed attorney in the case, Nathan Lyons of Hillsville, appealed the case and the Court of Appeals of Virginia said in an order last month that, "Upon consideration of the Commonwealth's confession of error, the said judgment is reversed and annulled, the verdict of the jury is set aside, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings."

Grayson County Commonwealth's Attorney Doug Vaught said the error involved an interpreter's translation of statements at the trial and other issues.

Phipps, who had been serving his sentence at Green Rock Prison in Chatham, was returned to the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin last week.

Phipps was convicted of malicious wounding in the case involving Candelario Guztamante Chigo, 24, who was allegedly beaten and robbed of between $500 and $600.

Vaught said he didn't know if Chigo, an illegal immigrant, is still in the area.

Lyons was appointed by Geisler to continue to represent Phipps when a new trial is held.

Phipps will appear in court again on Jan. 9 at 9 a.m., at which time a new trial date may be set in the case.

BACKGROUND:

The Virginia Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a 20-year-old Grayson County man.

Tony Byron Phipps II was convicted of malicious wounding in May 2007 and sentenced to six years for an alleged altercation that occurred in 2006 at a house on Hackler Lane in Independence.

A new court-appointed attorney in the case, Nathan Lyons of Hillsville, appealed the case and the court said in an order received last week that, “Upon consideration of the Commonwealth’s confession of error, the said judgment is reversed and annulled, the verdict of the jury is set aside and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.”

Grayson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Doug Vaught said the errors during the trial involved an interpreter’s translation and other issues.

He is working on the case, but no trial date has been set.

Meanwhile, Phipps — who has been serving his sentence at Green Rock Prison in Chatham — will be returned to the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin and will appear at a bond hearing in Grayson County Circuit Court on Dec. 4 at 9:30 a.m.

According to evidence presented by former Grayson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dawn Davis Cox, 24-year-old Candelario Guztamante Chigo was severely beaten and robbed of between $500 and $600 on April 16, 2006. He received treatment for his injuries at Wake Forest University Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The jury, after several hours of deliberations, recommended a six-year sentence for Phipps on the malicious wounding charge, plus an additional term of two years, for a total of eight years.

Judge Brett Geisler suspended the two-year sentence.

Geisler also ordered Phipps to pay restitution after he was released from prison.

The restitution included $5,689.25 to Twin County Regional Hospital; $164 to the emergency room doctor at TCRH; $6,246 to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C.; $961 to EMS Services; $1,429.20 to Wake Forest Hospital; $1,949 to Galax Radiology and $11.95 to Prescription Medication.

Phipps was ordered to pay court costs of $1,640.

Vaught said if Phipps was found not guilty in his second trial, then he wouldn’t be responsible for the restitution or court costs.

Vaught said he didn’t know if Chigo, who was an illegal immigrant, is still in the area.

Lyons will continue to represent Phipps at the new trial.