Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 11, 2013

Ex-Va. sheriff enters Alford plea to misconduct

Associated Press

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — Former Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt entered an Alford plea on Thursday to a misconduct charge and acknowledged that he made mistakes on the day that a deputy killed a woman.

Hunt was accused of failing to warn other authorities that former Deputy Jonathan Agee planned to kill his ex-wife, Jennifer Agee.

Media outlets reported that Hunt entered his plea in Franklin County Circuit Court. He had been convicted of the misdemeanor charge in General District Court in September 2012 but appealed the verdict to circuit court.

An Alford plea means the defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges there’s enough evidence to convict.

Under a plea agreement, the charge will be dismissed if Hunt does not commit any other criminal offenses in the coming year.

Prosecutors say Jennifer Agee was fatally shot by Jonathan Agee in a parking lot in Roanoke on Memorial Day 2011. He then shot a Virginia State Police trooper in the leg during a chase that followed.

“I am glad that this matter has been resolved for all involved, and I look forward to when this charge is dismissed against me. As Sheriff, I always tried to do the best of my ability at all times,” Hunt said in a statement issued following the hearing. “The events of Memorial Day 2011 will forever affect me and my family, as we continue to mourn for the loss of Jennifer Agee.

“While I acknowledge that mistakes were made by me and others as we tried to grasp what was occurring and prevent this tragedy from happening, I submit that my actions on that day were not criminal in nature. Throughout my law enforcement career, I always put the protection of my fellow citizens first. It goes without saying that I wish the events of that day had been different, and I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Jennifer Agee,” he said.

Diana Spain, Jennifer Agee’s mother, said following Thursday’s hearing that she was pleased with the plea agreement.

“Especially with the public acknowledgement.” Spain said, “that was the biggest thing.”

Hunt’s attorney, Bill Stanley, said that the former sheriff has donated $1,000 to a domestic violence shelter in Salem. The family of Jennifer Agee requested the donation.

Agree was convicted in May of first-degree murder, attempted capital murder and aggravated malicious wounding. He was sentenced to three life terms in prison.

In the months after the shootings, Hunt lost his bid for re-election to Bill Overton. In May 2012, a wrongful death lawsuit against Hunt filed by Jennifer Agee’s estate was settled. Her two children will receive $900,000 from that settlement.