Father and son granted probation before judgment

Sentence-modification hearing held for James Royer Jr. and James G. Royer III

March 24, 2011|By DON AINES |

Over the objections of a police officer who said he could have been shot in the incident, a father and son were granted probation before judgment during a sentence-modification hearing Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court.

"Mr. Royer was attempting to retrieve that handgun with the sole intent of firing that weapon," Detective Jason Dietz told Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr., referring to James G. Royer Jr.

"This man was trying to kill me that day," Dietz said.

James Royer Jr., 60, and James G. Royer III, 32, who now live in Falling Waters, W.Va., had Hagerstown addresses at the time of the 2008 incident at the father's Woodland Way home, according to the statement of probable cause filed by Hagerstown police.

On Feb. 18, 2010, James Royer Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and James Royer III pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, according to court records. Each was given an 18-month suspended sentence and one year of probation.

Probation before judgment allows defendants to have their  criminal records expunged if they successfully complete probation.

The Royers were taken into custody when police went to the elder Royer's home on Nov. 22, 2008, to search for a wanted man, the charging documents said.

James Royer Jr. objected to the officers' presence and began walking down steps to the basement, the documents said. Dietz attempted to stop him because the basement had not been searched, and he spotted a handgun on the staircase, the documents said.

 Royer grabbed the handgun and began turning in Dietz's direction, the documents said. Dietz and Royer struggled, and the gun fell to the bottom stairs where Royer "made a motion toward the handgun" before Dietz kicked it away, the documents said.

The handgun was loaded, the documents said.

James Royer III had tried to stop police from entering the house, struggled with officers and had to be subdued with a Taser, the documents said.

The man police were searching for escaped during the incident, the documents said.

The Royers' attorney, James N. Papirmeister, told Long that James Royer Jr.'s wife died just days before the police search, and the family was grieving. Papirmeister said the prosecution agreed not to oppose the modification request.

"This is another one of those cases where there are absolutely no winners," Long said.

The judge said he previously did not believe probation before judgment should be granted, but noted that there had been no inappropriate behavior by the father and son since the plea was entered.

Dietz left the courtroom as Long granted the probation before judgment.

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