Suffolk battalion chief pleads guilty to charges, gets suspended sentence


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Suffolk Fire and Rescue battalion chief has pleaded guilty to several charges, including reckless driving and obstruction of justice.

Police say 44-year-old Owen Thomasson was driving under the influence back in October and hit two utility poles, two mailboxes and a bush, then left the scene.

Thomasson was arrested December 14, 2017, after a direct indictment. At that time he was facing charges of felony hit-and-run – personal injury, felony destroy property, misdemeanor destroy property (2 counts), misdemeanor drive while intoxicated, misdemeanor fail to report accident, misdemeanor false police report and misdemeanor obstruct justice.

Neither Thomasson or his co-defendant/girlfriend Rebecca McConnell had anything to say about the trial when they came out of court Monday morning. They both pleaded guilty to several charges and got their sentences suspended, pending good behavior.

According to the Commonwealth, a citizen told police on Oct. 14, a pick-up truck hit two utility poles, two mailboxes, and a bush on Wilroy Road before taking off.

The vehicle later was found unoccupied, but damaged at the intersection of East Constance Road and North Main. It had a fire department radio in the passenger seat.

When officers went to Thomasson’s house, he told police he had been home asleep and his truck was stolen. An officer reportedly smelled alcohol and reported that Thomasson’s speech was slurred.

In court Monday, it was learned that Thomasson even filed a police report saying the truck was stolen, but he later admitted that wasn’t true.

Thomasson said he took off from the scene because he was scared and didn’t know what to do.

Thomasson’s attorney, Jesse Johnson (the husband of Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson) told the court his client suffered a concussion during the wreck.

Johnson told the court that injury may have been why Thomasson didn’t understand what was going on in the hours after the accident.

Johnson told the court all restitution has been paid. The plants, mailboxes and utility poles had also already been repaired.

Thomasson pleaded guilty to four charges including reckless driving, destruction of property and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson told 10 On Your Side that the prosecution withdrew two felony charges.

He said no breath or blood test was taken, so they felt this was the appropriate solution.

Thomasson must pay a $250 fine. He was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail, but it was all suspended for two years pending good behavior.

Thomasson will have a restricted drivers’ license and he must take part in an alcohol program.

McConnell, who was in the vehicle during the crash, pleaded guilty to giving false information to police and not reporting the wreck.

She was sentenced to two years in jail, but that time was also suspended.

Johnson also represented her and told the court his client didn’t know she had to report the accident.

After the trial, 10 On Your Side asked Johnson, “Are you satisfied with what the court decided?” He responded, “I think so. Of course, it’s not my call.”

Thomasson is a 23-year Suffolk Fire Department employee and had no prior criminal record. Johnson also told the court Thomasson is a father.

The judge told both Thomasson and McConnell that they are lucky because things could have been much worse

10 On Your Side has learned that Thomasson is now on administrative leave without pay from the city pending an administrative investigation.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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