A Pittsylvania County Circuit Court judge ordered Steven Ray Tickle on Sept. 15 to serve five months in jail for using cocaine while on probation.
Tickle, one of the stars of the reality television series “Moonshiners,” had been given a suspended three year sentence on July 28 for possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun.
Judge James J. Reynolds revoked the suspended sentence, but then resuspended two years and seven months of it, ordering the 39-year-old Blairs man to serve five months active time. Upon his release, Tickle will again be placed on 12 months probation and must be of good behavior for five years.
Tickle’s probation officer, Becky Quarles, testified that she issued a major violation report on July 14 for failure to abstain from the use of illegal drugs.
In the report, Quarles said Tickle “admitted to cocaine use within the last two days” and signed the substance abuse admission form.
Quarles said Tickle told her he had relapsed “due to stress from his father not feeling well and having a short time to live.”
Tickle’s mother, Lois Eileen Tickle, testified that her husband had a health scare in July. She said he lost 50 pounds, had a bad cough, and was referred to a pulmonologist.
Tickle’s 16-year-old daughter also testified in his defense.
“My dad is actually an amazing father,” she said.
She said she is making “straight A’s” in school and that “he tries to help me with my homework, but doesn’t understand.”
Tickle told the court that he has a substance abuse problem, but had recently found guidance from a jail program run by “Pastor Terry”.
“When I get out of jail, I fully intend to continue in it and help others afterward,” he said. “This is something I’m serious about, not something I’m doing to look good in court.”
“I have not only hurt my daughter and my family,” said Tickle, “but also the people I work for. I have hurt the people on the tv show. I have possibly hurt their livelihood.”
“We all have bad things happen in this life – disappointments on a personal and professional level,” said Judge Reynolds. “You need to find the strength to take those things for what they are. They should not be the trigger for you.”
The judge told Tickle to look at things from the perspective of his daughter.
“Her grandfather is very sick...and then to have to deal with you. She’s already had to talk you out of drinking moonshine. She’s obviously a bright girl with a terrific future ahead of her,” he said.
Tickle’s “sawed-off” shotgun conviction stemmed from a July 12, 2015, traffic stop for a bad headlight on his vehicle.
At his March sentencing, Attorney Joe Garrett of Danville asked the court for a suspended sentence, so his client could continue working as a promotor for a legal distillery, which sells alcohol in 19 states.
According to the lawyer, Tickle is the sole custodian of a 15-year-old daughter.
He also said Tickle had “given up drinking,” but had to “occasionally taste alcohol as part of his role on ‘Moonshiners’.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Aubrey Gordon called Tickle’s criminal record “not super terrible,” saying most of the offenses were driving related.
However, Gordon pointed out that the defendant had been convicted of a felony firearm violation with a dangerous gun and asked the court to send a message that “that’s not the type of behavior we condone in this area.”
Tickle spoke to the court prior to his sentencing, saying, “I am a law-abiding citizen. That gun is something that a buddy of mine gave me many years ago.”
He said he had been keeping the weapon in a shoebox in his closet until recently when his friend died. Tickle said he had taken the gun out, so he could give it to his friend’s grandson.
He told the court he had quit drinking after his daughter begged him to, but added, “Every once in a while I take a taste to make sure the quality is right.”
“My daughter wants to stay with me, but if I’m in jail, I can’t provide for her,” he said.
Judge Stacey W. Moreau said, “A sawed off shot gun is extremely dangerous. You did have it out in the open in the cab of your truck; however, you have no criminal history to amount to anything.”