'McMissile' Moment Lands Mom in Jail

A Stafford County jury convicted Jessica Hall, 25, of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle.
A Stafford County jury convicted Jessica Hall, 25, of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle. (By Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

To the locals, it's the "McMissile" case.

And like the name, the details of it spill forth like a bad joke: A woman is driving north on Interstate 95. Three kids squirm in the back seat, and her sister, six months pregnant and having early contractions, sits in the front. The stress starts to simmer. Traffic slows, then crawls, then creeps. More stress. A car cuts in front of her, then scoots away. A short time later, it darts in again. She can no longer take it. She veers onto the shoulder and speeds up. Wham! She tosses a large McDonald's cup filled with ice into the other car.

"From my side, I heard a whoomp," recalled the woman's sister, LaJeanna Porter, 27. "I was like, 'I know you didn't throw that cup.' She said, 'Yes I did.' "

Neither woman foresaw the seemingly supersize repercussions of that misguided moment July 2.

No one was injured, but the cup launcher, Jessica Hall, 25, of Jacksonville, N.C., was charged and convicted by a Stafford County jury of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle, a felony in Virginia. The instructions given to the jury said that "any physical object can be considered a missile. A missile can be propelled by any force, including throwing."

Hall, a mother of three young children whose husband is serving his third tour in Iraq, has spent more than a month in jail.

The jury sentenced her to two years in prison, the minimum, and a judge will formally impose a sentence Wednesday. Under state law, the judge can only decrease the jury's sentence.

"We didn't think it would go this far," Hall said in an interview at the Rappahannock Regional Jail. "Two years! What did I do?"

There are two versions of what happened that day. The occupants of both cars agree on this: It was hot, the kind of hot in which legs stick to leather seats, and the traffic was barely moving, slowed by a fatal crash up the road in Prince William County.

In one car, driver Pete Ballin, 36, and girlfriend Eliza Fowle, 28, were heading home to the District after visiting her father in North Carolina. They said they were maneuvering through the stalled traffic, not even noticing Hall until the Mickey-D moment.

"I guess we inadvertently merged back in front of her," Fowle said. "She apparently took that as some sort of aggressive maneuver on our part."

The next thing they knew, Fowle said, Hall was pulling up in the emergency lane and "chucking a big, supersized McDonald's cup at us." It flew diagonally across Ballin and onto Fowle. "It was gross and sticky and got all over me and the front of our car, the dashboard and the windshield," Fowle said.

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