A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge sentenced Debra D. Hill yesterday to six months in jail for fabricating a scheme last fall in which she falsely complained to police that her eyes had been damaged when she used a bottle of contaminated Visine A.C. eyedrops.
"Frankly, I think you're a pretty pitiful sort of a person," Judge F. Bruce Bach told the 30-year-old Reston woman minutes before deputies led her to jail. Bach imposed the maximum one-year jail term allowed for the misdemeanor offense, but suspended six months of that sentence.
Hill's two daughters, who watched the court hearing with their father, waved to her as she was escorted back to jail where she has been since Bach found her guilty of the charge April 7. Her conviction in Bach's court came on her appeal of an earlier conviction on the same charge in General District Court, on which she had been sentenced to a year in prison and fined $1,000.
William J. Schewe, Hill's court-appointed attorney, described the woman as "her own worst enemy" and said that Hill has a long history of mental problems. "Debra Hill has created her own hell," Schewe said. "She has held herself up to public ridicule and scorn since this case began."
But prosecutor Raymond L. Brownelle argued that Hill has falsified and exaggerated accounts of her mental problems. He argued that she used alleged mental problems as ploy to try to avoid trials on past criminal offenses involving credit card fraud, checking herself into mental institutions a few days before scheduled court appearances.
The report of contaminated eyedrops was just one of several scams Hill created in hopes of obtaining financial gain through lawsuits or settlements, Brownelle had argued in previous hearings.
Hill's report of contaminated eyedrops sent police on an expensive "wild-goose chase," Brownelle said.
"She did this at probably the worst possible time it could have been done," said Brownelle. "Right in the middle of the Tylenol scare."
The incident came after a case in Chicago in which several people died after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules.