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Lawrence gets probation on felony charge

By Staff | May 17, 2013

WHEELING — William A. “Tony” Lawrence, 65, of Shepherdstown, was sentenced to three years probation in the U.S. District Court Northern District Court of West Virginia Monday after pleading guilty to one felony count of sale of a firearm to a prohibited person.

Lawrence is the father of Delegate Tiffany Lawrence (D-Jefferson).

Lawrence was initially charged with with seven counts, one of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and six counts of selling a firearm to a convicted felon.

Judge John Preston Bailey announced in the courtroom that Lawrence had, on Feb. 12, 2013 in the Magistrate Court in Martinsburg, pled guilty to Count two of the initial indictment. He accepted that plea of guilty which led to the sentencing phase in Wheeling.

Kevin Mills, attorney for Lawrence, had filed objections in the case indicating that Lawrence was unaware that the firearms sold were allegedly stolen. He also had filed with the court that Lawrence owned firearms as a collector or for private use. Had Judge Bailey accepted the two objections to the pre-sentencing report, the point system employed by the court to determine sentencing guidelines could have been lowered. The judge overruled both objections.

Defense levels are applied in the point system which indicate the minimum and maximum potential sentences. The judge has the authority to deviate from those minimum or maximum sentences, which is what he did in the Lawrence case.

Lawrence could have faced a minimum sentence of 30-37 months along with fines from $6,000 to $60,000.

After receiving letters from the Jefferson County community as well as across the state, and taking into consideration that Lawrence had no previous criminal history, Bailey sentenced him to three years of probation and a fine of $6,000.

The sentence came after a heartfelt statement given by Lawrence apologizing to the court and to his family and friends for the trouble he had caused in this matter.

“I made a mistake in judgment that will haunt me the rest of my life,” Lawrence said.

State prosecutor Gerald Douglas said to the court that the prosecution opposed the probation and asked for the minimum 30-month sentence.

“Selling to a felon could have put someone in danger,” Douglas said.

Bailey said that he considered all factors of the serious offense but also considered that Lawrence had zero criminal history and had been a respected member of the military and the educational profession.

“The defendant has shown heartfelt regret and this court sees no basis to incarcerate this defendant,” Bailey said. In addition to probation, Lawrence must serve 200 hours of community service and pay the fine imposed.