CHRISTIANSBURG — A trash can of marijuana abruptly vanished from Michael Travis Devore’s legal case Monday as a plea agreement brought him a conviction for possessing a smaller amount of the drug with the intent to distribute it.
Monday’s conviction in Montgomery County Circuit Court resulted in a $100 fine for Devore, 61, and a sentence to serve three months behind bars. But it did not end what has become a family prosecution.
Devore’s son, Daniel Travis Devore, 31, is scheduled to stand trial Tuesday on the same charge that his father initially faced — possession with the intent to distribute the 37 pounds of pot that an officer found in a garbage can at the elder Devore’s home.
The father-son cases began early on the morning of Nov. 22, 2017, when police were called to Michael Devore’s residence in Christiansburg because Daniel Devore had overdosed on heroin, according to court testimony. Officers revived the younger Devore with Narcan, according to court statements.
Michael Devore then gave an officer permission to search the laundry room where his son had collapsed, and the garbage can of marijuana was found.
A search warrant filed in the case said that Daniel Devore, whose age was not available, last year told investigators that the marijuana in the garbage can belonged to him. Michael Devore has been called as a defense witness in his son’s case.
Michael Devore is the son of the late Judge Kenneth Devore, a relationship that caused Montgomery County’s regular Circuit Court judges, Marc Long and Robert Turk, to recuse themselves.
Judge Lee Harrell, who usually hears cases in Giles County, presided over Michael Devore’s hearings. Retired Judge David Melesco is overseeing Daniel Devore’s trial.
At Monday’s hearing, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz asked to amend the charge against Michael Devore by reducing the amount of marijuana he was accused of planning to distribute. Shifting the quantity to a category of more than a half ounce but less than five pounds, rather than the original charge’s more than five pounds, eliminated a minimum penalty of five years in prison.
Wolz said that the amended charge also stemmed from officers’ search of Michael Devore’s home — but did not involve the trash can.
Officers also found a freezer bag of the drug in a drawer in a nightstand in Devore’s bedroom, with prescription medicine bottles with his name on them sitting on top of it, Wolz said. The state crime lab determined that the bag contained about 1.6 ounces of marijuana.
Wolz said that the amount was inconsistent with personal use. That conclusion was reinforced by other, unspecified items that officers found, she said.
Defense attorney Bruce Phillips did not object to the amended charge.
Devore then entered an Alford plea, in which he maintained his innocence but said he did not want to risk a trial.
Harrell quickly found Devore guilty and said he would impose the penalty recommended by a plea agreement: five years in prison, to be suspended after Devore served three months; the fine; a six-month suspension of driving privileges; and five years of supervised probation after Devore’s release.
Phillips asked if Devore could delay the start of his sentence until Wednesday to more easily testify at his son’s trial. Harrell said that he would allow that.
Phillips then asked if Devore could serve his time under house arrest .
No, the judge answered — on Wednesday, Devore must go to jail.