HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Michael Hardy, the owner of a home in Henrico’s West End described by police as a “fortified drug house,” was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday, with his defense painting a portrait of a struggling veteran and county prosecutors calling him a danger to the community.
Hardy, 53, was arrested in March 2022 after police searched his home on Durwood Crescent, finding drugs, firearms, improvised explosives and over 19,000 rounds of ammunition.
Hardy pleaded guilty to the six charges against him in October, and during his sentencing hearing on Friday, Jan. 13, his defense argued that in light of his long service as a marine and national guard member, he should be granted leniency and sentenced to the mandatory minimum of five years.
The prosecution, on the other hand, pointed to the severity of his crimes, including introducing young people to dangerous narcotics, as reason that a sentence of more than ten years should be imposed.
Who is Michael Hardy?
Over the course of more than two hours, the court heard testimony from friends, family, victims and officers who knew or came to know Hardy and his crimes — as well as tearful testimony from Hardy himself.
Hardy told the court that he had served as a marine during the Gulf War, which left him with psychological scars that he never sought treatment for, fearing it would end his military career.
That career continued after his discharge from the marines and the death of several friends when, in 2009, he re-enlisted, this time in the National Guard, and served as military police.
His first wife, the mother of his three daughters, died in 2019 from complications of alcoholism, five years after Hardy himself took custody of their children. Hardy testified that his crystal meth use began shortly before her death.
“I never stopped loving her,” he said.
He said that his drug dealing stemmed from that addiction, and the transition from alcohol addiction to opioid use.
“I didn’t intend to sell anything, but that stuff started getting expensive.”
His family did try to intervene to help him his sister, Elizabeth Hardy Mclennon, told the court. She traveled to Henrico from her home in Colorado in 2019 and met with him and his other sister at a local restaurant.
“He was well-groomed, he was clean, he was coherent,” she said, but added that he later began to cry and told them the death of his ex-wife of alcoholism had taken its toll. Still, fearing the loss of his security clearance, he refused to get help.
Hardy also downplayed the danger of the explosives discovered in his home, saying that the tannerite — an explosive available for sale to civilians — was intended for target practice.
The Other Side
The prosecution painted a much less friendly picture of Hardy, with the officer in charge of the local police response telling the court that it took local and federal officers two days to clear his house.
The tannerite, he testified, had been formed into a pipe bomb, to which was attached nails and ball bearings, creating a potentially deadly improvised explosive device.
Ibrahim Kassem also testified, telling the court that his girlfriend had been friends with one of Hardy’s daughters, and that when he visited the house, Hardy offered him a “little blue pill,” which he later discovered was a percocet. Kassem was 18 at the time.
Kassem, who said he had never done drugs until that point, took the pill, eventually becoming hooked on percocet, at which point Hardy encouraged him to begin selling drugs.
The court also heard from Hardy’s girlfriend, a young woman Hardy was first introduced to when she was around 15 years old, because she had been kicked out of her home and came to stay with her friend, Hardy’s daughter.
She told the court that she was an addict before she met Hardy, but that he fed her habit, and eventually got her to start selling. He also began a relationship with her in 2019, when she was 18 years old — thirty years Hardy’s junior.
The relationship, she testified, was violent and controlling.
“Text me again about not selling shit and I’m literally going to f—ing blow up like you’ve never seen,” Hardy wrote to her, adding that he would “kick you out and take every ducking switch you think you have.”
Hardy also represented her to “modeling agencies” as her manager under the company name “Vixen Management.”
Nevertheless, she told the court that she still loved Hardy, who performed a marriage ceremony with her sometime before his arrest in 2022.
“He’s my best friend, I had plenty of good times,” she said. “He makes me feel safe, without him I don’t feel safe.”
“The breadth and scope of Michael Hardy’s criminal activity … can’t be overstated,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Ackley in his closing statement.
He called the mandatory minimum of 5 years “totally inadequate” given his role in introducing young people to drug use.
When asked by Judge John Marshall what sentence he would recommend, Ackley demurred, saying he would “hesitate to put a number on this,” but ultimately recommending over 10 years in prison.
Defense attorney Russell Stone, on the other hand, pointed out that, perhaps as a result of his expertise and training, none of Hardy’s devices had actually injured anyone. Stone further pointed to Hardy’s history in the armed forces as reason to believe that he could rehabilitate himself with a lighter sentence.
“He has a level of service not often seen in criminal defendants,” Stone said.
Hardy then read a prepared statement, saying his arrest, “absolutely saved his life,” but that he did not believe he lead anyone into addiction, though he recognized that his actions were still wrong.
Towards the end of his statement, Hardy became visibly overcome with emotion.
Judge Marshall acknowledged Hardy’s service, but said that in light of the evidence presented, he found few justifications for leniency.
“You might be naive enough to think that all these people you were distributing drugs to were already using,” Marshall said. “But that’s just not the reality.”
He went on to say that it was “disturbing and sad” to hear testimony from his girlfriend and see evidence of his physical abuse, then hear her say that Hardy made her feel safe.
On the six counts, Judge Marshall then announced — one by one — the sentences, totaling 12 years in prison, and another 68 years of suspended time.
As Hardy was lead from the courtroom in handcuffs, some among his family and friends, who had filled the circuit court’s gallery, began to cry.