Case Overturned – Tyvon Smith Freed

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Court of appeals

By Linda Cicoira — The Court of Appeals of Virginia recently overturned an Accomack Circuit Court jury’s decision that in 2017 sent Tyvon “Teddy” Lyncurtis Smith, a self-proclaimed local Bloods street gang leader, to prison for 30 years for crimes that occurred in 2013. 

After being sentenced in November 2017, Smith, now 26, was led away from the courtroom in shackles. As he was going out the door, he announced, “When I get out, I’ll still be king.” The terms were handed down by Judge Edward Hansen of the Virginia Beach Circuit.

The convictions of inducing someone to commit perjury, participating in gang activity, and soliciting an arson to keep witnesses from testifying against him were reversed and annulled jointly by Chief Judge Marla Graff Decker, Senior Judge Robert P. Frank, and Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. on May 14. Smith was released from Buckingham Correctional Center, in Dillwyn, Va., on June 20, the same day Accomack Circuit Court got official word that the ruling was made. The dismissals were entered into court records on July 12.

Police said this week that Smith returned to the Eastern Shore and is living in Gargatha. “Mr. Smith has been a plague in Accomack County from his first contact with law enforcement” as a juvenile, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan told Hansen at the sentencing. “That’s exactly what the jury saw. They saw a danger to the … citizens … I think this court needs to do everything it can to protect this county and its citizens.”

“He’s a young man your honor,” defense lawyer James “J. D.” Garrett, of Virginia Beach, Va., said in response at the sentencing. “The human brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s. As we age into the late 20s and early 30s … things don’t seem like a good idea anymore. He is going to age and his brain will develop and mature.”

Morgan said, “His brain is quite fully developed … in calculating terms as Tyvon Smith warned his underlings, ‘Make sure to get the gas in a milk jug that way it will burn … don’t get the gas the same night you do it.’ He was coordinating a campaign of terror in Accomack County,” Morgan said.

The appellate judges said there was an error in the trial. “Accordingly, the judgment is reversed and annulled and the verdict of the jury is set aside. Proceeding to enter such judgment as seems right and proper, the court dismisses the indictment against the appellant.”

Smith challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions. He was represented by Paul C. Galanides, of Richmond, Va.

Initially, Smith and Jaquan “Buck” Cortez Portier, of Dennis Drive in Parksley, another named Bloods member, shot at a house in Rolling Acres causing the inhabitants to duck for cover. A young woman, who said she was riding in the car with Smith and Portier, testified against them at a preliminary hearing, but she could not be found when Smith went to trial. Two others got “amnesia” and couldn’t recall what happened. Those charges were dropped against both men.

Smith was in police custody continuously for at least two years before he was convicted. He would beat the charges and would then get accused of more crimes as police and prosecutors struggled to get a conviction.

Smith had 14 convictions as a juvenile. When he was 18, he was charged in connection with the shooting death of a Guatemala native, who was waiting for a ride to work near Parksley. The first murder trial for Smith resulted in a hung jury. At the second trial, he was acquitted when a judge said he could not convict based on the testimony of a co-defendant.

Another prosecutor, then Acting Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Brenner, also sought to convict Smith. “I submit that he’s a dangerous young man,” Brenner told the jurors. “He should not see the light of day out of prison until he is well into his adult years. He needs to get past this … juvenile gang-bang behavior … you have a potential life-term that you could use to give this defendant” so “that he could not do things in this community for a long, long, long time.”

The three appellate judges were told of letters that Smith wrote while in jail to keep witnesses from testifying against him and his instructions on how to burn a residence. “Get some gas (and) shake it on half of the house front and back. Then, Tanya Bundick that bitch. Soon as you see the fire, let them 32 go. Make sure you get the gas in a milk jug that way that will burn too. You feel me? You take care of that.”

Smith was referring to convicted arsonist Tonya Bundick, who is also from Accomack County. “The ’32’ either described the number of rounds to be fired or the caliber of the weapon,” the decision stated.

Defense attorney Galanides argued that the letters were intercepted at the jail and were not addressed to the witnesses so there was “no evidence” that Smith “prevailed upon the witnesses to perjure themselves.”

The judges wrote, “We conclude that the evidence failed to establish that appellant ever communicated to the two witnesses his ‘plan’ for them to commit perjury.”

Regarding the arson, Smith’s lawyer said, the prosecutor never proved “a fire was ever set … without a letter being communicated to the recipient, (the) appellant could not aid, counsel, procure or solicit any action.” Smith’s attorney further argued that he could not be convicted of participating in a street gang offense if the offense was not established.

By press time Thursday, Morgan had not answered a reporter’s inquiry, sent Tuesday, about the judges’ action.

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