NEW KENT – A Lanexa man found with over $1 million of marijuana in his rental home in 2011 will remain in federal prison despite a plea for early release due to his failing health.
John Steven Carter’s lawyer, Joseph Caprio, appeared in New Kent County Circuit Court Monday asking that Judge Richard Y. Atlee, Jr. reduce his client’s sentence, which would allow him to leave federal prison in Fort Dix, NJ and become eligible for early release.
“Mr. Carter has not had any violent felonies since 1982. He has been incarcerated since 2009 and his health is very poor,” said Caprio, who added that Carter’s marijuana charges should not warrant his federal prison sentence.
“Since he was sentenced, two states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana,” Caprio added.
Judge Thomas N. Nance sentenced Carter, 62, in 2011 for growing marijuana at his rental home at 15600 Pocahontas Trail. According to Caprio, Judge Nance would most likely have changed his view on marijuana since imposing sentencing.
However, Atlee rejected Caprio’s request.
“He had a significant conviction back in 1982, in which he had a very violent intent,” said Atlee.
“Firearms seems to repeat itself [in Carter’s life], especially since we know he was in possession of one when he killed someone with it.”
“Modifying Carter’s sentence would be contrary to the public’s best interest,” he added.
Judge Nance found Carter guilty in New Kent Circuit Court in February 2011 of manufacturing marijuana (five years with three suspended), possession with the intent to distribute (five years with two suspended), two counts of uttering (two years with two suspended) and two counts of forgery (two years with two suspended). In total, Carter was sentenced to 18 years with 13 years suspended, which exceeded the guidelines.
He dismissed the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge.
Carter’s forgery and uttering charges stem from November 2006 when he was living in Lanexa under the alias William Joseph Benton, Jr. (a deceased acquaintance of Carter) and gave the name to law enforcement officers.
The real-life Benton was involved in a murder plot with Carter and his wife in 1982.
The couple hired an Army private at Ft. Eustis to steal a M-16 rifle from the base’s firing range and shoot former Virginia ABC officer William David Altman, Jr. when he arrived at Carter’s wife's trial at New Kent Circuit Court on Feb. 2, 1982.
The murder plot went awry when another soldier revealed the plans to military police on Jan. 15, 1982.
Co-conspirator William “Bones” Benton, Jr. was set to drive the getaway car.
Carter spent five years behind bars for the incident.
Carter’s drug charges stem from the 2008 discovery of a grow room, and over $1 million of marijuana plants upstairs in his Lanexa rental home.
The drugs were discovered after an attempted burglary by Williamsburg teens on October 14, 2008 left Christopher Greene, on teen, dead. Carter fled the scene. Greene’s death was ruled a justifiable homicide.
According to the New Kent Sheriff’s Office search warrant (filed soon after the incident), homeowner Woodrow Hockaday contacted New Kent Corporal Kevin Watkins the morning of October 25, 2008 (following Carter’s disappearance from the home) and asked him to come to the residence.
Upon his arrival, the off-duty Corporal followed the landlord to the second floor, where a room had been boarded over with paneling.
Hockaday noticed a missing room from the original layout and pulled back the paneling to reveal a door.
Sheriff F.W. “Wakie” Howard, Jr. revealed in a media press release that the 8-foot by 12-foot hidden room contained “a large number of suspected marijuana plants,” as well as grow lights, timers and thermostats to control the room’s temperature.
According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory, 346 plants were found growing inside the house.
The self-proclaimed “medical botanist” was on the lam until he was arrested in Alabama in March 2009.
Aside from the charges in New Kent County, Carter is serving a 10-year sentence at Ft. Dix for 2004 felony charges of marijuana possession in Florida.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.