August, the last full month of summer, arrives at a time when public schools in Floyd County and other parts of the region starts at mid-month, the old-time fiddlers and those who practice bluegrass and traditional old-time music gather in Galax for their annual gathering and ends with the mother of all flea markets and a gun show in Hillsville.
Floyd County High School’s football Buffaloes open their season at home against Christiansburg on the final Friday of August. The volleyballers will be at the nets and high school golfers hit the links.
August brings us three sessions of Circuit Court, beginning with the usual roundup of trials — or more often the plea bargains that settle the cases without a need to call witnesses or present evidence — probation violations and extended trips to prison from a judge who doesn’t accept repeated promises that criminals gives but seldom keep.
Of the news that I cover for The Floyd Press, the time spent in the Circuit Court room each Tuesday morning, provides surprises and disappointment. Court hearings give a close look at those who ignore the law, seek shortcuts to money and pleasure and offer endless strings of excuses for misbehavior. While not all are guilty of such misdeeds, enough are to keep the courts busy and the New River Valley Jail in Dublin overloaded.
Over the last dozen years of covering courts, I have watched a grandfather tell a judge that sexually molested his granddaughter because “I guess I just loved her too much,” a mother molested a stepson because “that what mothers do to their children” and a burglar who used a crowbar to destroy the lock of a home to steal the resident’s property “because I needed the money to feed my children.”
Court provides a picture of our society that can be a pretty one and often tells us about how little regard too many have for laws and conventions. Those appearing in Circuit Court this Tuesday include a Floyd man charged with assaulting a family member and abducting them by force, another using a firearm to commit a felony even though he is already a convicted felon who is not supposed to have such a weapon and the usual collection of those who get their kicks using and/or producing crystal methamphetamine — the highly addictive drug that is an epidemic in Floyd County.
Lawbreakers, however, are not just felons. Spend a Thursday in General District Court, where folks routinely violate speed limits, fail to register their vehicles, drive without valid licenses or ignore other misdemeanor offenses. Cases before the court show drivers routinely drive at speeds over 70 miles per hour with at least two at a rate more than 20 miles per hour over 55 — which becomes reckless driving. One driver in this week’s court faces his eighth charge of driving under a revoked license.
Speeders provide their own list of excuses for breaking the law: “I was running late for work” or “I know how to drive a car at speed so I’m not a danger to anyone” or “Oh, my speedometer is wrong and needs to be adjusted” or simply “I was in a hurry.”
Some say speeding is no big deal but limits on how fast a driver can drive on a public road are laws of the land and a check of records of those who appear in Circuit Court for violent felonies show a widespread disregard for most laws, including speed limits.
Here comes the judge.