Edwards appeals long rape sentence

Published 1:32 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2015

By Diana McFarland

News editor

After a series of failed motions, a Smithfield man is asking for a lesser sentence with the Appeals Court of Virginia because he’s afraid of dying in prison, according to a motion filed in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court. 

Danny Steve Edwards was sentenced in August to 40 years in prison for the 1973 rape of his 13-year old cousin and which resulted in the birth of a child.

The Appeals Court has not made a decision on whether to hear the case or not, said Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips.

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Prior to the state appeal, Edwards’ attorney filed motions asking the court to suspend and modify Edwards’ sentence, as well as for the court to release sealed documents — particularly the reason why the judge gave Edwards a prison sentence outside of current sentencing guidelines.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Those motions were denied, Phillips said.

 In his motion filed in Isle of Wight Circuit Court, Edwards asked the court to suspend or modify his sentence because, given his age of 64, he will likely die in prison.

The motion points out that Edwards’ prison sentence is 30 years longer than that sought by the Commonwealth, as well as being 28 years longer than the top end of the state’s sentencing guidelines for a felony child rape offense.

Virginia calls for a sentence ranging from four years and two months to 11 years and eight months. Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips asked for a 10-year sentence.

The motion requests that Edwards be sentenced within the guideline’s range, and specifically for a sentence of nine years and 11 months.

As part of that motion, Edwards also asked to be placed on probation or temporary custody until the motion is addressed in court.

Edwards is currently at Western Tidewater Regional Jail awaiting transfer to a state penitentiary, according to Phillips.

Phillips said Edwards’ 40-year sentence, while longer than current guidelines, is appropriate because of when the crime was committed. In 1973, the crime of raping a child was punishable by death. That was later ruled unconstitutional and the sentence was changed to life in prison. Therefore, the 40-year sentence applies, Phillips said.

Isle of Wight Circuit Court Judge Robert Sandwich denied the motion for access to sealed documents because access applies only to offenses committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995, and the document was sealed without objection from Edwards, according to the court order.

Phillips said the reasons for the 40-year sentence were verbalized during the August sentencing hearing and the transcripts are now available.

Edwards was charged with rape after a DNA test indicated he was the father of the child conceived as a result of the rape. The victim and the child, now an adult, had asked for medical information from Edwards, but were rebuffed. After that, the victim sought out criminal charges. {/mprestriction}