LOVINGSTON — A former officer with the Amherst Police Department will not serve any jail time after being convicted of charges related to illegally getting nude pictures — in one case, of a crime suspect.
Timothy David Maberry, 44, was indicted in May by a special grand jury of felony interception of wire communication, misdemeanor use of a computer for harassment, misdemeanor copying computer software without authorization and misdemeanor dissemination of images of another, commonly referred to as a “revenge porn” law.
Nelson County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Erik Laub adjusted three of those charges at Maberry’s final hearing Friday. He prosecuted the charges in Nelson Circuit Court before Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge F. Patrick Yeatts to avoid conflicts of interest.
Laub amended the felony interception of wire communication and misdemeanor copying computer software without authorization, making both of them into misdemeanor charges of malfeasance in office by way of conducting a search without a warrant.
He said the interception of wire communication was an “ill-used” law with next to no case law from previously tried cases, and the software copying charge is an “unused statute” that didn’t actually fit the case.
He asked for dismissal of the revenge pornography charge, stating a witness in that instance was missing. The computer harassment charge remained the same.
After the charges were amended, Maberry pleaded no contest to all three. Laub said after the hearing there was no plea agreement or agreed-upon sentencing for the case.
Reading off evidence in court, Laub said Maberry “secured” the cellphones of two crime suspects between January 2015 and July 2018 while working for the police department, unlawfully accessing them without search warrants and using one for harassment.
After the hearing, he told The News & Advance that the first cellphone was lawfully seized by another officer and Maberry accessed it after seizure. When the other officer analyzed data from the phone, they noticed there was activity on the phone while the suspect was in jail — namely, a request for nude photographs from someone else using the suspect’s phone.
Laub didn’t identify the two officers who first reported something was awry, but said in a news release they “had the fortitude and honesty to turn in a superior officer” — their supervisor at the department.
Virginia State Police then searched the contents of Maberry’s work computer and found images of another woman and crime suspect from her cellphone, including nudes, according to Laub. That woman testified she didn’t give permission for Maberry to search her phone, Laub said.
“I can’t say that he purposefully downloaded those naked images, because it was the whole phone,” he said. “But I can say he did it without a search warrant, which he can’t do.”
Laub said it was difficult to determine exactly when the crimes occurred, which is why the charges range from January 2015 to July 31, 2018 — when Maberry ceased to be employed by the town as a detective sergeant. Witnesses who came before the grand jury in May couldn’t recall the exact dates when certain events occurred, Laub said.
He said he couldn’t say if there was any suspicion of Maberry doing something similar to other suspects.
As per a recommendation from Laub, Judge Yeatts sentenced Maberry to 18 months in jail, with all of that time suspended. He’ll need to be of good behavior for a year.
According to his research, Laub said that sentence is the same that most “common citizens” with no criminal history serve for the same convictions.
“I think police officers should be held to a higher standard,” he said after the hearing, adding that he was trying to treat Maberry fairly.
Since he was convicted of two counts of malfeasance, Maberry won’t be able to serve as a police officer anymore.
“The Town is proud of the officers who demonstrated their commitment to the law through their actions,” Amherst Town Manager Sara Carter said in an email. “Justice has been served and additional policies have been put in place to ensure that this will never happen again.”