By Lyra Bordelon
Although initially set for an in-person sentencing hearing, the Greenbrier County Circuit Court under Judge Jennifer Dent changed course in the case against Nakiska Brown on Wednesday, September 9. Although a plea deal had previously been submitted to the court for felony accessory after the fact to murder, Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via explained the state now thought she was not guilty of the crime.
Brown was indicted by a Greenbrier County Grand Jury in October 2018 on one felony count of accessory after the fact to murder. Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Via explained that although a plea deal had been reached, the state did not intend to see it through, but would be reconsidering the charges all together.
“We have considered this case in a very in-depth way – it is our considered opinion that Ms. Brown is guilty of the offense of tampering with evidence due to some things that came up during the trial that we were unaware of,” explained Via. “It became the case that she looked as though she may not be guilty of felony accessory after the fact. Certainly there’s enough evidence to suggest her being not guilty of that offense [and] I am no longer comfortable having her be adjudicated for that offense.”
In addition to the 2018 indictment, Brown was a witness in the 2019 trial of Carl Wayne Rich. Rich was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after shooting Jay Booth with a compound bow, ultimately resulting in Booth’s death. Due partially to inconsistencies in the testimony of another witness, Harold Bailes Jr., and Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dent’s post-trial recusal from the case, the defense moved for a new trial after the grand jury found Rich guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a motion that has yet to be considered in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court.
Brown’s defense attorney, Joshua Harding, confirmed this would be a positive resolution to the original indictment.
“My understanding of the state’ position right now is that the matter that we were here to be sentenced on today should ultimately be removed from the docket and that the state would intend to recharge my client with the misdemeanor offense of tampering with evidence as opposed to the felony offense that she currently is facing. … Of course I need not say my client is willing to allow time for the state to put that into effect.”
In addition, the any potential sentence Brown receives for a misdemeanor plea could be substantially less than if the state moved forward with the sentencing originally scheduled to take place Wednesday.
“She’s not going to be going back to jail, I don’t think, under any circumstances. … This plea agreement is not going to recommend any additional time, even though she can’t be discharged on time served if she doesn’t have enough time for that. The court will still have the discretion to do whatever it wants, but the state’s recommendation will be maybe some probationary time but no further jail time.”
The state intended to bring Brown’s state to a close after Rich’s, but ongoing consideration and new evidence have changed the outlook.
“I no longer think it’s fair to anyone to allow this case to linger because another case is lingering somewhat,” Via explained. “… Thankfully, we did not submit a plea to the court that required an adjudication, … which gives us the freedom to do what we wish to do.”
The case will be considered further in the Circuit Court once Via files the misdemeanor information and a potential deal between the parties.