Habitual felon faces up to 10 years

By DeeAnna Haney | Aug 14, 2013

A habitual felon will spend up to 10 years behind bars after a recent guilty plea in Superior Court.

Because Waynesville resident Kevin Eugene Lee Keeny is no stranger to criminal activity, his most recent arrest Dec. 31, 2012, led him to be sentenced as a habitual felon in Haywood County.

He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon after Waynesville police officers found him at a home on Leaf Lane, where they were told guns were being sold.

Keeny initially denied having anything to do with the sale of guns, telling Sgt. Brandon Gilmore three different stories about what had happened inside the home. After securing a warrant and searching the home, officers found two firearms.

Keeny later admitted to brokering the exchange of the firearms for drugs, but said he did not touch or possess the guns.

Another person later told police that Keeny had attempted to sell him a firearm. Keeny was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.

The 30-year-old has been in and out of jail for a string of felonies over the past 13 years, including convictions for several counts of breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering, common law robbery and possession of stolen goods, as well as various misdemeanors.

Keeny committed most of those crimes in Haywood County, but has been charged in Richmond and Buncombe counties as well.

North Carolina’s habitual felon law enhances the penalty for those convicted of three previous separate felonies, raising the grade of felony four degrees higher.

Keeny pled guilty to the charge, agreeing to a term of 7 ½ to 10 years in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections. His plea meant avoiding a juried trial. Superior Court Judge Marvin P. Pope also recommended him for work release and substance abuse programs while in jail.


Jury trials

Also in Superior Court last week, a jury found 21-year-old Justin Ray Surrett guilty on three felony charges resulting in a maximum of three and a half years in jail.

The charges stem from April 23 when a man saw Surrett running from a rental home on Riverbend Street in Hazelwood. The man, who was the father of the woman who lived at the home, noticed Surrett's car parked in his daughter's driveway while she was at work. When he went to see who it was, he found Surrett hiding behind a heating oil tank on the property, holding a laptop, WII console and a Nintendo DS.

When the man confronted Surrett, he ran to a getaway vehicle occupied by two women, and drove away.

Less than one hour later, Waynesville officers received a call from a Clyde resident who said Surrett and two women were attempting to sell stolen property.

When police arrived at the Clyde home, they arrested Surrett.

Though he did not testify during the trial, after the jury's verdict was given, Surrett took the stand, saying he had arranged the return of the stolen items while he was in jail, Jones said.

But when Jones asked how he was able to make those arrangements, Surrett asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

Surrett was sentenced to 20 to 42 months in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.

In a second jury trial last week, 27-year-old Daniel Ryan Jones was sentenced to 300 days in jail as a result of a domestic altercation in April.

On April 21, neighbors of Jones called police after hearing him argue with his mother at their Bethel home.

When police arrived, he fled into the woods, but later returned and attacked his 70-year-old neighbor who had called 9-1-1. He also threatened to kill the woman's husband and then hit him in the face with his fist.

When police returned, Jones was charged with communicating a threat, second-degree trespassing and assault inflicting serious injury — all misdemeanors.

Jones pled not guilty during his trial last week, asserting that his actions were self defense.

The state argued that he started the fight with his mother and his neighbors. Jeff Jones said because he was the aggressor, in the matter, self defense was not available to him.

Jones has previously been convicted of several charges including attempted felonious child abuse inflicting serious physical injury, felony flee elude arrest with a motor vehile, two counts DWI, felony attempt to obtain prop by false pretense, to name a few.

In addition to jail time, he was ordered to pay restitution for his neighbor's medical expenses. Assistant District Attorneys Jeff Jones and Ann Revels prosecuted the case.

“His mother, Tina Jones, stated during her testimony that Mr. Jones had struggled with managing his anger ever since his father passed 14 years ago," Revels said. "Based on that testimony from a close family member, the state hopes he will receive mental health treatment while he is in prison. Given his criminal background and his assaultive history, however, the state also believes the sentence was appropriate for the amount of prison time that was imposed by Judge Pope."