ORANGE — A Locust Grove man who was stabbed in the head while lying in bed two years ago — and then chased and shot his attacker — received a seven-month jail sentence and $2,000 fine Friday in Orange County Circuit Court.
Alonte Pernell, 25, was given credit for time served — nearly a year incarcerated — and remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for processing. He was expected to be released within 24 hours.
“We’re glad it’s over,” the defendant’s mother and father said outside the courtroom.
The bizarre case began with a June 14, 2017, confrontation inside Pernell’s home in the Somerset Ridge housing development when he awoke when Stafford woman, Lynika Chapman, was injuring him. She and another woman, the mother of Pernell’s child, showed up unannounced that morning intending “to set him straight,” according to Judge Dale Durrer, citing text messages that were part of the court record.
Pernell, in bed with his fiancé, got his mother’s gun and chased Chapman through the house and outside, leaving bullet holes in a parked truck in the neighborhood and shooting the woman in her thigh.
The bullet lodged near her pelvic bone, requiring surgery and an overnight stay in a Fredericksburg hospital. Chapman was not criminally charged and did not cooperate with prosecutors in trying Pernell, never testifying in court about the shooting.
Pernell was originally charged with malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, until last April’s trial ended in a mistrial after the jury tried to convict him of lesser charges. The defendant ultimately accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to unlawful wounding and unlawful shooting in the commission of, or attempt to commit, a felony.
“I accept the time you give me,” Pernell said in court Friday prior to sentencing. “This is the first time and last time you will see me in this courtroom. I stand up for my wrongs and I wish the person who stabbed me would stand up for their wrongs, too.”
Durrer took all of the circumstances under consideration in deciding sentencing, namely that the women showed up and started a fight at Pernell’s home, the setting where a person should feel most safe, the judge said.
At the same time, Durrer cautioned the defendant, “Once the emergency left the house, perhaps he should have stopped,” noting a person should “not exceed the necessity of self-defense.”
“He did exceed that,” the judge said, while giving Pernell credit for having no prior criminal history and meeting all the conditions of his release the past two years.
On the first count, Durrer sentenced Pernell to five years’ incarceration with all but three months suspended and, on the second count, five years’ incarceration with all but four months suspended in addition to $1,000 fine for each count. He was ordered to be on good behavior for 20 years, serve five years of supervised probation, not have any contact with the two women and complete 100 hours of community service.
Prosecutor Kay Fitzgerald called two witnesses during Friday’s proceedings to testify about sentencing guidelines based on the severity of the gunshot wound: probation officer Stephanie Boteler and Kimberly Thomas with the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission.
Fitzgerald asked the judge to impose a sentence of two years and four months, on the higher end of the guidelines.
The prosecutor argued that Chapman’s injuries could have been life-threatening and that she could have bled out, as the bullet stopped just millimeters from her arteries.
Boteler said she was “on the fence” regarding the life-threatening injury designation, which carries a higher penalty, per the guidelines that are based on judicial history. She agreed in such cases the need to “err in favor of the defendant.”
Thomas, in her analysis, found the injury did not rise to life-threatening, saying its level of seriousness was “very, very ambiguous.”
“I would say it was a physical or serious injury,” she said.
Reading the guidelines for unlawful wounding, Thomas cited a range of punishment from just probation, on the low end, to six months incarceration, on the high end.
Defense attorney Eugene Frost pointed out to the judge all of Pernell’s family present in the courtroom, including his brother, for whom the defendant provides full-time care.
“They will testify he is good, that he takes care of his brother, who was also at home when my client got stabbed in the head,” Frost said. “They will testify he is nothing more than a great son and brother.”
In recommending a higher sentence, Fitzgerald said Chapman did not testify during the two years of proceedings because she did not feel safe to come to court. The prosecutor said she could only imagine the physical and emotional pain the woman endured.
This elicited a strong reaction from Frost, who jumped up and called Chapman “a lunatic.” The defense attorney said Chapman should have been prosecuted for breaking and entering with intent to murder his client.
“I guess that is OK in Orange County as long as Mr. Pernell, a black male, has to stand trial for this,” Frost said.
Pernell never got to confront his accuser, he added, and “stands here with his life and his future in your hands.”
The defense attorney said Pernell, regardless of sentencing, would be a two-time convicted felon. He asked for zero to six months of jail time with credit for time served.
“It’s what is just and fair in this,” Frost said. “They made a victim of him.”