Former Buchanan County Teacher Sentenced for Drug Distribution

Last week, Lisa Kathleen Burns, 44, of Grundy, Virginia was ordered to serve a sentence near the highest end of the applicable sentencing guidelines. Burns had previously entered guilty pleas to one count each of Distribution of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, Distribution of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance on School Property, Distribution of a Schedule III Controlled Substance, and Prescription Fraud.

During the sentencing hearing, Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington introduced evidence that Burns had made two separate sales of narcotics to confidential informants, and that one of those sales had occurred on the property of Hurley High School. Arrington also pointed out that at the time of her crimes, Burns was a teacher for the Buchanan County Public Schools.

During closing arguments, Arrington argued that Burns deserved a sentence far above the applicable sentencing guidelines. He noted that at the time that she sold the drugs, Burns was a teacher for the local school system and told the court that this matter was “of great public interest and of public concern.” Arrington further argued that the Court shouldn’t ignore the fact that the sentencing guidelines did not take into account that she was a public school teacher who sold drugs on school property.

After considering the evidence before him, Judge Patrick Johnson rejected the argument that Burns deserved a sentence above the highest end of the sentencing guidelines because she was employed as a school teacher and had sold drugs on school property, but instead, sentenced Burns within the guidelines given her lack of a prior criminal history. In total, he ordered that Burns serve one year and four months of a total sentence of 12 years in prison, and ordered that she complete 5 years of supervised probation as a condition of the suspended sentence.

When asked for comment, Arrington stated that “While Ms. Burns received a sentence at the higher end of the applicable guidelines, the Commonwealth felt that she should receive a far lengthier sentence than that of an ordinary addict who is selling a few pills from their home. Ms. Burns was a school teacher, and a role model to our youth, and the fact that she chose to sell drugs on school property should have resulted in a significant prison sentence. That being said, because of the poor choices that she made, Ms. Burns will spend more than the next year of her life in jail

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