A 35-year-old Williamsburg man faces up to life in prison plus an additional 35 years after pleading no contest to shooting two men in a James City County Elks Lodge.
After several hours consulting with his attorney and much hesitation, Johnnie Matthew Chapman took a plea deal in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Tuesday.
Chapman was at a party with at least 100 people on Sept. 25 when he shot two men who he got into a confrontation with, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maureen Kufro said.
Chapman pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, obstruction of justice, shooting into an occupied building and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Chapman also pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
When a defendant pleads no contest, they admit there is sufficient evidence to convict them, but do not admit guilt.
The two-day jury trial was scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., but Chapman and his attorney, Brian Smalls, did not enter the courtroom until almost 10 a.m.
Chapman did not enter the plea agreement until almost noon, showing reluctance and saying he did not understand the agreement.
Chapman, who had nearly a dozen family members and friends present in the courtroom, appeared in court wearing a pink dress shirt and slacks.
According to Kufro, Chapman and one victim were both watching a fight that had broken out between a party attendee and a security guard at the Elks Lodge, located on Howard Drive, when Chapman asked the victim why he “was standing so close.”
The victim told Chapman he was watching the fight as well. Chapman motioned toward his waistband a few times as the argument escalated, Kufro said.
During the altercation, a friend of the victim came up to Chapman and hit him, Kufro said. As a scuffle ensued, Chapman’s gun fell onto the ground. Seeing the firearm, the first victim started backing away, Kufro said.
Kufro said Chapman took several steps toward the victim and shot him several times. A bullet also hit the second man involved in the altercation.
After being shot, while both men were laying on the ground, two other men started to beat them, one saying “That’s my brother,” Kufro said.
Police later found an empty gun holster in Chapman’s brother’s vehicle, which was parked at the Elks Lodge.
In October, one victim had to have the bullet removed from his shoulder because it was moving closer to his neck and causing pain, Kufro said. He still has lingering complications, she added.
On Dec. 13, prosecutors say Chapman asked a cousin in Brooklyn, N.Y. to call a witness and convince them not to testify at his preliminary hearing.
The witness received a phone call from a woman saying “you won’t carry your a— to court on Thursday if you know what’s best for you.” Chapman was charged with obstruction of justice relating to that phone call.
Although Chapman’s trial was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., he and Smalls took several brief recesses to speak with each other about the possibility of a plea agreement.
Chapman said several times he did not understand parts of the plea agreement, and said “I refuse” when asked if he entered the plea agreement freely and voluntarily.
Chapman entered into the plea agreement willingly after over an hour consulting with his attorney.
His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. He faces up to life in prison plus 35 additional years. As part of the plea agreement, some of the time can be suspended to be within the “active time sentencing guidelines.” The minimum time he could serve, according to the guidelines, is 32 years.
Both Smalls and Kufro declined to comment on the case following court Tuesday afternoon.