By Matt Kaminer
Rockbridge County resident Brandon Staley pleaded guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to all charges related
to the Jan. 14 arson of his home, where he lived with his girlfriend, Heather Clark, and his mother, Teresa Sorrells.
Staley, 28, entered the plea to one count of arson in a dwelling house, one count of making a bomb or burning threat, and two counts of torturing and causing the death of a companion animal. A dog and a cat were killed in the fire at 686 Stuartsburg Road, west of Buena Vista.
The arraignment comes three months after Staley first pleaded guilty to the charges in June. He appeared in court for his sentencing hearing on Sept. 12, but during the hearing his defense attorney, Eric Sisler brought a clerical error in Staley’s pre-sentencing report to the attention of presiding Judge Anita Filson.
The report, Sisler claimed, cited an incorrect Virginia code section, which caused a misrepresentation of the estimated sentencing range. Filson granted Staley’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea, as well as two weeks for the defense to regroup. However, Staley re-entered his guilty plea Tuesday.
The error originated in the office of Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Billias, who apologized to the court for the mistake.
Staley is scheduled for a pre-sentencing report on Nov. 1 and his sentencing is expected to take place in December.