A heavy fog of irony hung over the Floyd County Circuit Courtroom Thursday as former Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon Hannett entered — as a defendant this time, not a prosecutor.

The hearing on six class one misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and disabling computer software started 35 minutes late, delayed by negotiations on a last minute deal that may let Hannett escape prosecution for the crimes: Another irony since Hannett’s freewheeling style of plea bargains as the county prosecutor became a key issue in his losing 2007 re-election campaign.

Chris Kowalczuk, Hannet’s Roanoke-based attorney, had told a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter earlier that he wasn’t interested in a deal. His client wanted his day in court and chance to "clear his name."

But, in those last frantic moments before the hearing, Kowalczuk and Hannett cut a deal with Special Prosecutor Douglas Vaught, who also serves as Grayson County Commonwealth’s Attorney. If Hannett pays $3,500 in restitution to the county for three missing computer hard drives plus software and performs 100 hours of community service in the next 60 days, the charges will be dropped at a rescheduled hearing on April 16.  If he fails to do so, he will be tried on the original charges of stealing the hard drives.

My story on the hearing will appear in next week’s Floyd Press. An abbreviated version was posted on the paper’s web site Thursday afternoon. Roanoke Times reporter Shawna Morrison reports on the story in today’s paper and Richmond Times-Dispatch writer Rex Bowman also covered the hearing.

Hannett sat quietly in the courtroom, looking straight ahead, avoiding eye contact with anyone, especially those he once worked with in the the county’s criminal justice system. When the short hearing ended, he walked out, having used Virginia’s byzantine system of justice to make one last deal.