A lifetime of hard work, then a drug conviction

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

In early February, less than a week before his 63rd birthday, Evwell Batten was arrested for selling crack cocaine three times to an undercover officer in Smithfield.

In his 62 years, he had never before been convicted of a felony. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Batten’s arrest was part of a large drug bust in Isle of Wight County in which the Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police drug task force unleashed 50 felony indictments on 16 individuals in the county.

On Wednesday morning, Batten, who breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank, stood before Judge Wayne Farmer in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court, where he was sentenced to serve nine months in Western Tidewater Regional Jail, a low sentence, according to Farmer, as Batten faced up to as much as 15 years, five for each separate sale of crack cocaine. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Batten was also ordered to pay back the $230 he received from the undercover female officer in exchange for the narcotic.

Farmer and both attorneys at the court each said they found the nature of the crime and the age and clean history of Batten to be an unusual and disconcerting combination.

“I’m trying to wrap my mind around how you got here,” Farmer said to Batten.

Batten’s attorney Tim Clancy said he had also been perplexed by what seemed to be an anomaly in Batten’s life, and defended his client’s character to the court.

Despite having what Clancy referred to as a “third grade education,” Batten has raised three children, two of whom are grown professionals, one an electrician in Newport News, and the other a medical professional in Cary, N.C., according to Clancy. Batten’s youngest, a daughter, is a junior at Smithfield High School.

Batten has managed to maintain steady employment throughout the years as well, according to Clancy, though he has gone on disability in the past.  

“He’s a simple man,” Clancy said, gesturing toward the seated Batten. “He doesn’t read, he doesn’t write … He has one regret in life, and it’s sitting in that chair,” referring to the courtroom appearance.

Batten’s son from Cary, N.C., Evwell Batten Jr., was at the sentencing as well and has been at his father’s side throughout the year’s legal processes, Clancy said to the court.

Clancy asked that Farmer consider the relatively small amounts of cocaine distributed by Batten, as well as Batten’s serious medical condition, before issuing a sentencing.  

Isle of Wight County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Clark, who recommended a one year and six month sentencing for Batten, stressed to the court that Batten’s medical condition did not stop him from selling crack cocaine in Smithfield in a location not far from Westside Elementary School and families, according to Clark.

Batten, a large man wearing a white, hooded sweater, expressed his regret as he stood before Farmer Wednesday, shaking his head and at times seeming to be at a loss for words.

“I just feel so damn …,” said Batten, choking up.

“‘Darn,’” corrected Clancy, softly touching his client’s arm as he faced the judge.

Farmer asked Batten if he would want to see his own daughter start using cocaine. Batten said that he would not.

“But it’s okay for someone else’s daughter?” said Farmer. “That’s someone’s daughter that you sold cocaine to.”

Multiple character reference letters were submitted by Clancy to the court as evidence and advocated Batten’s positive contributions to the community that he has lived in.

Farmer said he took the letters as well as Batten’s relatively clean past into consideration as he issued the nine-month sentencing.

“I believe that the good Evwell Batten still exists,” said Farmer.

Batten was ordered to report to Western Tidewater Regional Jail this past Friday. Neither Clancy, nor Farmer was sure how Batten’s oxygen tank would be accommodated when he entered the jail.  {/mprestriction}