A Fairfax Circuit Court judge yesterday found Debra D. Hill guilty of fabricating a scheme last fall in which she falsely complained to police that contaminated Visine A.C. eye drops damaged her eyes.
Judge F. Bruce Bach revoked Hill's $4,000 bond, ordered her jailed immediately and declared: "I think what she did is wrong. It was very serious, particularly in the context of the whole Tylenol thing at the time. She might as well start doing her time now."
Hill, a 30-year-old Reston woman convicted of the misdemeanor offense of giving police a false and intentionally misleading report of a crime, was led from the courtroom to the county jail by sheriff's deputies.
It was the second time in two months that a judge found Hill guilty of the same charge. After receiving a 12-month prison term and $1,000 fine from a General District Court judge in February, Hill appealed to Circuit Court. Bach still must decide on Hill's sentence; his sentencing, which he postponed until April 22, will supersede the sentence imposed by the lower court.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond L. Brownelle, citing a long chain of circumstantial evidence, told the judge: "Everything taken together indicates she was on some kind of scam."
Hill, taking the stand in her own defense, claimed she was the victim of acid-tainted Visine A.C. eye drops that she said she purchased at a Herndon drug store, brought home and applied to her left eye.
"I used it and it burnt just awful," Hill told Bach. She said her eye blistered almost immediately.
The prosecutor, depicting Hill as a woman with a history of creating a variety of schemes, said circumstantial evidence showed that Hill added hydrochloric acid to the Visine bottle after she used the drops. Prosecution witnesses said Hill was seen in the science lab at Northern Virginia Community College in Loudoun County, where she was a student, shortly after she reported eye trouble to doctors. Lab officials said a bottle of acid was found missing from the lab later that day.
Hill said she was home eating a sandwich and watching television at the time prosecution witnesses said she was at the lab.
Hill's initial claims of eye damage caused widespread concern last October, partly because they followed a national investigation into incidents of drug tampering, particularly cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules that had caused several deaths.
An acquaintance of Hill's, Cynthia Johnson, told the judge that Hill had told her in casual conversation in early October that "you could win a lot of money" by putting acid in Visine.
Prosecutor Brownelle, in closing arguments, described Hill as a woman with a record of using a variety of tricks to obtain free meals, free hotel rooms and other free services. He said she had released insects on restaurant tables after dining in an effort to avoid paying for the food.
Hill also has filed numerous civil lawsuits, Brownelle said, including a claim for damages allegedly incurred slipping at a swimming pool and claims for alleged injuries at supermarkets and amusement parks.
Hill's court-appointed attorney, William J. Schewe, said the woman has an extensive record of psychiatric problems, which he said he will ask the judge to consider before sentencing.