Hooper verdict affirmed

Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

NORFOLK—The conviction of a Richmond man on multiple felonies related to a boating accident on Carter Creek will stand.

Judge Randolph A. Beales released the Virginia Court of Appeals opinion September 19, affirming John Randolph “Rand” Hooper’s felony convictions of involuntary manslaughter and hit and run in the death of his friend, Graham McCormick, in August 2017. McCormick was found drowned as the result of blunt force trauma due to a boating accident at the entrance to Carter Creek off the Rappahannock River.

The case, which drew state-wide media coverage, included three different judges, three different prosecutors, a plea agreement which was rejected by the court, multiple continuations—some related to COVID-19—and a change in venue from Lancaster County to Norfolk.

Hooper was convicted by jury in Norfolk Circuit Court in January 2022 and sentenced to 15 years with nine suspended on both charges by Judge Charles Poston in May 2022. The sentence included 10 years, with four suspended, for the involuntary manslaughter charge, and all five years suspended on the hit and run conviction.

Hooper’s law team filed a motion for sentence reduction in Lancaster County Circuit Court in August 2022 but Judge Poston denied the request a month later.

Hooper then appealed the conviction, stating his due process rights were violated, and arguments were heard by members of the State Court of Appeals in Norfolk in May 2023. Senior Assistant Attorney General Virginia Theisen represented the Commonwealth.

Although Hooper’s attorneys argued there was no direct evidence proving he was the driver of the boat at the time of the accident, the Virginia Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion “there is plenty of credible evidence in the record to support the jury’s findings of fact that Hooper was driving the boat when it hit a bulkhead late at night when McCormick was thrown overboard and then drowned.”

Hooper still has the right to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Virginia.