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David Annarelli was arrested inside his Virginia home during a severe mental health crisis in 2016. Police arrived untrained and unprepared to handle a serious mental health situation. Instead of using de-escalation techniques, an officer who never identified himself kicked open the door to the home and opened fire. David returned fire. Everyone survived without serious injury. David was charged with malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer and sentenced to 20 years in prison by Judge Marc Long, which was FIVE TIMES the recommended sentencing guidelines by the state.
Some facts about the defendant:
- No criminal record
- No history of violence
- Documented history of mental health issues
- Documented Traumatic Brain Injury sustained before his arrest
All of these details were readily dismissed and/or ignored during sentencing. Instead, Judge Long declared from the bench that David would “be made an example of.” Judge Long was twice investigated by the Judicial Inquiry & Review Commission and in January, 2020, was denied reappointment to the bench by the VA General Assembly.
In 2020, VA General Assembly instituted Marcus Alert to assist police in handling mental health scenarios as well as a number of policing reforms including: body cameras, de-escalation, exhaustion of non-lethal options, more strict knock and announce procedures, and warnings before discharging a weapon. Thousands of prisoners today, including David, were never afforded these common sense protocols at the time of their arrest. When combined with the extreme judicial overreach and abuse of power deployed by Judge Long in Floyd County, it leads any reasonable person to conclude that David’s case, and many hundreds more, deserve a fair and proper review at the local, state, and federal level.
Since his excessive and incredulous sentence, David has pursued every legal path to appeal and has been denied the opportunity to review and re-argue his case before the court. Virginia allows its judges too much dangerous and unfettered discretion to only whimsically abide by their own state’s laws and guidelines. This system of abuse MUST CHANGE NOW!
In his own words, from a concrete box where he now spends 22 hours a day, David has the following message for those who deserve change, and for those who have the capacity to affect change:
“I am told that I am lucky to be alive… I do not feel lucky and I do not feel blessed… after hearing a judge claim to know more about mental health than a twenty year neuro-trauma specialist who testified on my behalf, and after years of inhumane psychological treatment, ‘lucky to be alive’ is the lowest moral standard of justice imaginable.”
David Annarelli is a father, musician, activist, and contributing writer to the Prison Journalism Project. He is serving an excessive sentence after an avoidable incident with police while in his own home during a mental health crisis. To learn more about his unique case or to help support his son, check out Dave’s GoFundMe page.