BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man who admitted to stealing a Ford truck belonging to Sen. Bill Hamilton in December 2018 will face a potential sentence of two to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to burglary and breaking-and-entering, both felonies.
Justin D. White, 37, pleaded guilty via information to burglary related to a Dec. 4, 2018, incident during which he removed a Ford F-250 truck that belonged to Hamilton from a residence on the Jack Hill Road.
As part of a plea agreement reached with Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney David Godwin, White also pleaded guilty to breaking-and-entering a building other than a dwelling related to a June 27, 2019, incident involving M2 Bravo and Tactical and Hobby LLC, the third count in an indictment that was returned against White by an Upshur County grand jury in September.
White was originally indicted on two counts of breaking-and-entering a building other than a dwelling, one count of felony conspiracy and one count of grand larceny, a felony.
Twenty-Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jacob Reger informed White he had a right to have the burglary charge presented to a grand jury.
However, White waived his right to have the case presented to a grand jury and instead agreed to allow Godwin to file an information – or formal criminal charge – against him.
Reger told White he could potentially face one to 10 years in prison on the breaking-and-entering charge and one to 15 years on the burglary charge for a combined sentence of two to 25 years.
“Even though I understand the state’s not going to object to the sentences being run concurrently (in a parallel fashion), you understand that I can still sentence you to from two to up to 25 years in prison if you decide to plead guilty to these charges,” Reger told White.
“Yes,” White replied.
Reger asked that White lay a factual basis for the June 27, 2019 incident referenced in the September indictment.
White, represented by attorney Ira Richardson III, said he had seen a building on the Bill Groves Road in the Sago area, later identified as M2 Bravo Tactical and Hobby, and had had a friend, Bradley Bonner, bring him there. He also said a woman named Julia Canter was in the vehicle.
White claimed he’d gotten out of the car and “gone on ahead” of Bonner and Canter up to the business, at which point he’d broken the lock to M2 Bravo, a business formerly located in the old armory on Route 20 in Tennerton.
White said he began taking items from the building, including two airsoft guns and other tactical equipment, including vests and gloves. White said he asked Bonner to help him remove the items, but said Bonner wasn’t aware he had broken the lock.
“They (Bonner and Canter) didn’t know the building was actually locked,” White told Reger. “I didn’t tell them what I was actually doing … I told them I had to grab some stuff and Brad helped me take some stuff, but he didn’t know I had broken the lock.”
Reger asked White if he’d discussed what he planned to do before or after he and Bonner removed the items.
“Sitting here, it’s hard for me to believe there wasn’t conversation about what you were doing in the car afterwards,” Reger told White.
“I’m sure they had an idea,” White replied. White said Bonner and Canter were aware price tags were attached to the stolen items and that White hadn’t paid for them.
(According to a previous My Buckhannon story, Bradley A. Bonner, 28, of Adrian, and Julia Ray Canter, 28, of French Creek, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy, two counts of breaking-and-entering a building other than a dwelling and one count of grand larceny, all felonies.)
“What’d you end up doing with it?” Reger asked White, to which White responded he’d divvied the equipment up between himself, Bonner and Canter because they’d helped him.
White then laid a factual basis for his plea of guilty via information to the Dec. 4, 2018, burglary charge involving a 1989 red-and-white Ford F-250 truck belonging to Hamilton that had been parked in the garage of the state senator’s late sister, Winnie Hoover, according to a previous story.
“I was driving up the road and I saw what appeared to me to be an abandoned trailer,” White said, “so, I walked up and there was nobody around.”
White told Reger he’d parked the blue Dodge Neon he was driving some distance away from a trailer, located on Jack Hill Road; walked back; entered the dwelling through a window he had broken; and rummaged through some belongings.
He then opened a door to the garage where the truck was parked.
White said the truck was in “great shape” and after seeing the keys in the garage, he drove the truck into town and parked it at Dollar General along Route 20 South.
“Then, I walked to my cousin’s and told him I’d run out of gas and I needed a ride back to my car (the blue Neon),” White recounted. “He didn’t know what I’d been doing.”
White reportedly spray-painted the truck black and it took Hamilton considerable time, effort and money to restore the 1989 Ford to its previous condition, the senator told My Buckhannon earlier this year.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Reger wanted to know why White had taken the truck.
“I’m not going to lie, I was under the influence of meth, and I had been awake for two days,” White said.
Reger asked White who he’d obtained the methamphetamine from, but White declined to give a name.
“One of my associates,” he replied. “I’d rather not implicate him.”
Reger accepted White’s guilty pleas and set his sentencing hearing for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in Upshur County Circuit Court.
“You don’t have any bond,” the judge added. “I find it’s a crime of violence, and I’m not going to allow any post-conviction bond to be set.”