A 51-year-old State Department employee who ran into the owner of a McLean video store with his car after objecting to a late fee was sentenced yesterday to perform 200 hours of community service.
Gregory H. Stanton, of McLean, was accused of hitting the store owner on the head with a videocassette, then driving his car into the man, knocking him through the plate-glass front of a restaurant. Stanton fled to Amsterdam on his diplomatic passport before returning to the United States and surrendering to police.
Stanton later paid store owner Hassan Mostafavi $30,000 in damages, and yesterday, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen H. MacKay said she took that into consideration. She gave Stanton a six-year suspended sentence for malicious wounding and destruction of property and gave him credit for the 40 days he spent in jail. MacKay ordered Stanton held April 29 when he did not contest the charges.
MacKay called Stanton's actions "bizarre," but she noted that he had no prior criminal record and that she had received 16 letters of support from his family and friends.
"There is no reason I should not take into consideration a whole man's life when deciding a sentence," MacKay said. "It would serve no purpose to serve any more time in jail."
Stanton wiped away tears as he told the judge that his actions were a result of his being given the wrong psychiatric medication for manic depression.
"I am profoundly sorry for those acts, and I prayed often for the full recovery of the man I injured," Stanton said. "What I did were acts of temporary insanity."
Stanton's attorney, Thomas Abbenante, said Stanton was mistakenly given Prozac, which he was taking at the time of the Jan. 24 altercation at Box Office Video in McLean.
Two psychiatrists testified on Stanton's behalf that the drug impaired his judgment and caused him to act impulsively.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Douglas R. Kay, who argued that Stanton should get jail time, said the defendant's behavior was "horrifying" and resembled "something out of a Hollywood movie."
"Even though the victim was paid . . . that does not take away the injuries he suffered," Kay said.
Police said Stanton argued with Mostafavi over a $4.49 late fee. Mostafavi, when reached at home, said he had mixed feelings about the sentence. "If he doesn't snap on anyone else, I am happy," he said. "But if he is still a danger, then I am disappointed."
Abbenante said Stanton will probably lose his license to practice law in Virginia as well as his job with the State Department, where he has been a junior Foreign Service officer since August 1992. A State Department official said yesterday that the agency was evaluating Stanton's position there.