Wright pleads guilty of threats

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Numerous conditions set for years of probation

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

An Isle of Wight man who threatened to burn down the house of a local judge — and possessed the materials to do so — plead guilty to related charges Thursday in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court. 

Joseph “Andy” Wright Jr., 62, is guilty of possessing bomb-making materials and making a threat to bomb or burn, both felonies. 

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Wright received a 19-year suspended sentence and a one year active incarceration with credit for time served, as well as a host of other conditions to include being banned from Isle of Wight County for 10 years unless permitted by his probation officer or the court, and a waiver of his fourth amendment rights — meaning he can be searched by his probation officer at any time without a warrant. 

Wright will remain in jail until Dec. 22 and after that will serve the remainder of his term at home under electronic surveillance. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Wright told the court that he plans to move to Virginia Beach. 

He is also not to have any contact with 5th Circuit Court Judge L. Wayne Farmer or his immediate family, must undergo any required counseling, must be under supervised probation for 10 years, exhibit good behavior for 20 years and pay court costs. 

Isle of Wight County Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips summarized the evidence for the court, starting in 2002 when Wright bought a house on Dews Plantation Road. Within two years Wright became embroiled in ongoing criminal and civil disputes with a neighbor that often ended up in court. 

Wright eventually sold his house in 2011 and left the county, according to Phillips.

In 2012, Wright began making contact with newly elected Sheriff Mark Marshall, according to Phillips. 

His demeanor was full of rage over what he perceived as a lack of justice in the court system and stated he had nothing to lose, according to Phillips. 

While Farmer had been commonwealth’s attorney when Wright was battling his neighbor in court, he later became a circuit court judge, according to Phillips. 

Meanwhile, Wright kept up his communications with the Sheriff’s Office and his anger became focused on Farmer, said Phillips. 

In 2014, Wright, who had been living in Chesapeake, began looking for a house to rent near Farmer’s residence, said Phillips. He also provided the Sheriff’s Office with a video clip of a TV commercial where a house ends up getting bombed, plus he was enamored of a movie titled, “Law Abiding Citizen,” that featured a character, Clyde Shelton, that Wright appeared to view as a hero, said Phillips. 

The movie is about a man who decides to take justice into his own hands after one of his family’s killers is set free, according to Internet Movie Database or IMDb. The character, Shelton, targets not only the killer, but also the district attorney and those involved in the killer’s plea deal, according to IMDb.  

Wright constantly made reference to this movie to law enforcement, Phillips said. 

Four years later, Farmer was a sitting judge and Wright had not been in court for some time, said Phillips. Earlier this year, Farmer became aware of the threat being posed by Wright and reported it to law enforcement, said Phillips.

In March, an appliance repairman went to Wright’s house, which was located in the same neighborhood as Farmer, to make a repair, said Phillips.

It was during his time there that Wright unveiled his plans to burn down Farmer’s house, said Phillips. 

The plan he outlined for the repairman included putting homemade incendiary devices inside the house via the Farmers’ doggie door, rigging an explosive device at a nearby tree so firefighters could not get to the house, and then taking some shots toward responding law enforcement in hopes they would fire back. 

Wright’s idea was that “he would go out in a blaze of glory, or suicide by cop,” said Phillips, who added that his demeanor changed when he discussed these plans with the repairman. 

Wright also described how he would use sand spurs embedded in marsh mud and scatter those in the Farmers’ yard so that Farmer would step on them barefoot as a way to draw blood, said Phillips. 

The repairman did not know Wright or Farmer personally, but was so concerned that he called law enforcement, said Phillips. 

Wright’s home was searched and he was arrested on March 22. 

Investigators found numerous items associated with bomb-making, to include switches, a cannon fuse, other fuses, PVC pipe, a rocket kit, CO2 cartridges, paint grenades, smokeless powder and more. The search also turned up two books, “Spite, Malice and Revenge,” and “Book of Dirty Tricks,” according to the search warrant filed in March. 

Other items included 12 gas cans and a five-pound bucket half full of sand spurs, said Phillips. 

Wright blamed Farmer for the loss of his marriage and family, according to the search warrant.

Phillips asked the court to go beyond the sentencing guidelines because of the length of time Wright’s anger had been expressed against the Farmers, and that there had been no immediate incident that would have sparked that level of rage, said Phillips.

Plus he told a total stranger what he planned to do, and then there were the sand spurs, she said. 

During a review of the plea agreement by Judge James Hawks, Wright said, “This is the fist trouble I’ve been in, in my life.”  {/mprestriction}