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Local man and woman arrested for vehicle theft

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On Monday, November 30, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department received two reports regarding thefts from vehicles. Incidents occurred at Front Royal Christian School, located at 80 N. Lake Ave. and the other at Commonwealth Assisted Living, located at 600 Mount View St. Security video footage was reviewed at Front Royal Christian School, which showed a dark-colored Escalade entering the parking lot. A female driver and male passenger were both seen entering vehicles without consent, where money was reported missing. The victim from Commonwealth Assisted Living reported her purse and wallet missing.

The suspects were identified as James Warren, 33, and Shawnte Mullins, 22, both of Front Royal. Warren and Mullins were contacted and interviewed. Both suspects admitted to their involvement in these incidents. The suspects also admitted to committing similar crimes in Frederick County, VA. James Warren was charged with 3 counts § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and 2 counts § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny. Shawnte Mullins was charged with § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny.

James Warren, 33. Photo is courtesy of RSW Regional Jail. There is no photo available for Shawnte Mullins.

James Warren and Shawnte Mullins were arrested on December 21, 2020, without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where they went before the magistrate and released on a $5000 secured bond. Their first court appearance will be December 29, 2020, at 10:00 am in Warren County General District Court.

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Warren County Grand Jury – November 2023 Indictments

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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF WARREN COUNTY, THE GRAND JURY CHARGES THAT:

TAYLOR ROBERTS

On or about May 17, 2023, in the County of Warren, Taylor Marie Roberts did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

BROOKLYN AMRICH

COUNT ONE: On or about September 20, 2023, in the County of Warren, Brooklyn Ann-Frances Amrich did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

COUNT TWO: On or about September 20, 2023, in the County of Warren, Brooklyn Ann-Frances Amrich did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

DOMINIQUE NICKENS

On or about March 2, 2023, in the County of Warren, Dominique Nickens did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

BRIANNA HAWKINS

On or about October 17, 2022, in the County of Warren, Brianna Danielle Hawkins did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of. Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

On or about September 27, 2023, in the County of Warren, Brianna Danielle Hawkins did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

SAMANTHA GILLIAM

On or about February 12, 2021, in the County of Warren, Samantha Mae Gilliam did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

SAMANTHA MURRAY

COUNT ONE: On or about April 4, 2023 in the County of Warren, Samantha Anne Murray did unlawfully and feloniously while being a parent of, guardian for, or person responsible for the care of E.L.V., a child, then under the age of eighteen years, commit a willful act or omission in the care of said child which was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, in violation of §18.2-371.1 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: FAM-3808-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about April 4, 2023, in the County of Warren, Samantha Anne Murray did unlawfully and feloniously possess a Schedule I or II controlled substance, in violation of Section 18.2-250, of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5


NO PHOTO AVAILABLE

COUNT ONE: On or about September 26, 2023, in the County of Warren, Willy Ernesto Rodriguez Perez did unlawfully and feloniously conspire, confederate, or combine with another or others in the Commonwealth to commit larceny where the aggregate value of the goods or merchandise involved is more than $1,000.00, in violation of §18.2-23 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: LAR-2304-F9

COUNT TWO: On or about September 26, 2023, in the County of Warren, Willy Ernesto Rodriguez Perez unlawfully and feloniously did possess a tool, implement, or an outfit with the intent to utilize it to commit burglary, robbery, or larceny in violation of Section 18.2-94 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: BUR-2206-F5

COUNT THREE: On or about September 26, 2023, in the County of Warren, Willy Ernesto Rodriguez Perez did unlawfully and feloniously, with the intention of converting goods or merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price (or defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise) willfully conceal or take possession of the goods or merchandise belonging to Lowe’s and having a value of $1,000.00 or more, in violation of Section 18.2-103 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: LAR-2354-F9

 

MANZIE COOK

On or about March 25, 2023, in the County of Warren, Manzie Blake Cook did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

NO PHOTO AVAILABLE

COUNT ONE: On or about July 14, 2023, in the County of Warren, Joshua Matthew Miller did unlawfully and feloniously drive or operate a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath; or while under the influence of alcohol; or while under the influence of a narcotic drug or other self-administered intoxicant or drug, or a combination of drugs, to a degree which impaired the accused’s ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle safely, or while under the combined influence of alcohol and a drug or drugs to a degree which impaired the accused’s ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle safely. The accused committed this offense after having committed two prior violations of Section 18.2-266 or provisions of law set forth in subsection E of Section 18.2-270 during the ten-year period ending on the date of the current offense. The accused committed the two prior violations during the five-year period ending on the date of the current offense, in violation of Section 18.2-266 and 18.2-270 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: DWI-5450-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about July 14, 2023, in the County of Warren, Joshua Matthew Miller did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of § 18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

COUNT THREE: ‘”On or about July 14, 2023, in the County of Warren, Joshua Matthew Miller did unlawfully and feloniously, while his license was revoked due to a prior felony conviction of Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, drive or operate a motor vehicle while in violation of Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, in violation of Section 46.2-391 (D)(2), of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: LIC-6860-F9

COUNT FOUR: On or about July 14, 2023, in the County of Warren, Joshua Matthew Miller did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

COUNT FIVE: On or about July 14, 2023, in the County of Warren, Joshua Matthew Miller did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

BENTLEY HUTCHISON

On or about May 27, 2023, in the County of Warren, Bentley Michael Hutchison did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Fentanyl listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

On or about December 1, 2022, through April 28, 2023, in the County of Warren, Tonya Janeen Gillum did unlawfully and feloniously, wrongfully, and fraudulently use, dispose of, conceal, or embezzle property having a value of $1,000.00 or more, which she received by virtue of her office, trust, or employment, belonging to Martin’s Grocery, in violation of §18.2-111 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: LAR-2707-F9

 

MICHAEL FOLTZ

COUNT ONE: On or about August 25, 2023, in the County of Warren, Michael Todd Foltz did unlawfully and feloniously take, drive, or use a vehicle valued at one thousand dollars or more belonging to Lena McAIister, without the consent of and in absence of the owner with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner of possession, in violation of Section 18.2-102 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: LAR-2412-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about August 25, 2023, in the County of Warren, Michael Todd Foltz did unlawfully and feloniously, having received a visible or audible signal from a lawenforcement officer to bring his motor vehicle to a stop, drive such motor vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard of such signal so as to interfere with or endanger the operation of the law enforcement vehicle or endanger a person, in violation of Section 46.2-817 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: REC-6624-F6

 

RANE ROVINSKY

On or about May 17, 2023, in the County of Warren, Rane Aquene Rovinsky did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

GARY SISK

On or about June 17, 2023, in the County of Warren, Gary Wayne Sisk did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

NO PHOTO AVAILABLE

On or about September 18, 2023, in the County of Warren, Theresa Ainslie Marquez did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

RYAN FOX

On or about June 10, 2023, in the County of Warren, Ryan Wesley Fox did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

ALVIN MCCASKILL

COUNT ONE: On or about July 16, 2023, in the County of Warren, Alvin Leon McCaskill did unlawfully and feloniously shoot or discharge a firearm at or against any dwelling house or building when occupied by one or more persons, whereby the life or lives of any such person or persons may be put in peril, in violation of §18.2-279 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: WPN-5242-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about July 16, 2023, in the County of Warren, Alvin Leon McCaskill did unlawfully and feloniously knowingly and intentionally possess or transport ammunition for a firearm, as defined by subsection D of Section 18.2-308.2, after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of Section 18.2-308.2 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: WPN-5298-F6

 

SARAH BURROUGHS

COUNT ONE: On or about July 7, 2023, in the County of Warren, Sarah Jayne Burroughs did unlawfully and feloniously knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a firearm after having previously been convicted of a felony not defined in Section 17.1-805, in violation of Section 18.2-308.2 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: WPN-5291-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about July 7, 2023, in the County of Warren, Sarah Jayne Burroughs did unlawfully and feloniously while being a parent of, guardian for, or person responsible for the care of R.H., a child then under the age of eighteen years, commit a willful act or omission in the care of said child which was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, in violation of §18.2-371.1 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: FAM-3808-F6

COUNT THREE: On or about December 9, 2022, in the County of Warren, Sarah Jayne Burroughs did unlawfully and feloniously assault and batter Officer Fogle knowing or having reason to know that such person was a law enforcement officer, as defined in subsection F of Section 18.2-57, engaged in public duties, in violation of Ssection 18.2-57 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: ASL-1342-F6

COUNT FOUR: On or about December 9, 2022, in the County-of. Warren, Sarah Jayne Burroughs did unlawfully and feloniously assault and batter Officer House knowing or having reason to know that such person was a law enforcement officer, as defined in subsection F of Section 18.2-57, engaged in public duties, in violation of Section 18.2-57 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: ASL-1342-F6

 

JAYA FRYE

On or about April 26, 2023, in the County of Warren. Jaya Matthews Frye did unlawfully and feloniously take, obtain, or withhold a credit card or credit card number from the person, possession, custody, or control of another without the cardholder’s consent, in violation of § 18.2- 192 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: FRD-2360-F9

 

NICHOLAS POE

On or about August 27, 2023, in the County of Warren, Nicholas Scott Poe did unlawfully and feloniously steal a motor vehicle having a value of one thousand ($1,000.00) or more, belonging to Pamela Cabiness, in violation of § 18.2-95 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: LAR-2404-F9

 

MELISSA SHAFFER

On or about November 20, 2022, in the County of Warren, Melissa Lynn Shaffer did unlawfully and feloniously, as a principal in the second degree, impede the blood circulation or respiration of P.H. without such person’s consent by knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully applying pressure to the neck of such person resulting in wounding or bodily injury, in violation of Sections 18.2-51.6 and 18.2-18 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: ASL-1347-F6

 

On or about June 20, 2023, in the County of Warren, Kijuan Shequnn Robinson did unlawfully and feloniously conspire to distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance, this being a second or subsequent offense, said prior convictions occurring prior to the date alleged in this indictment, in violation of Section 18.2-248 (C), of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC:NAR-3038-C9

 

DUSTIN HOTTINGER

COUNT ONE: On or about July 7, 2023, in the County of Warren, Dustin Lee Hottinger did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Drug Control Act in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

COUNT TWO: On or about July 7, 2023, in the County of Warren, Dustin Lee Hottinger did unlawfully and feloniously while unlawfully in possession of a controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II of the Drug Control Act, simultaneously with knowledge and intent possess a firearm, in violation of Section 18.2-308.4 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: WPN-5303-F6

 

CHRISTOPHER ARDIZZIONE

On or about October 8, 2023, in the County of Warren, Christopher Matthew Ardizzione did unlawfully and feloniously possess a Schedule I or II controlled substance in violation of Section 18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

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UPDATE: Town Police Seek Info on Protective Order, Stabbing Suspect Humberto Vazquez

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Update: Humberto Vazquez has been captured. Thank you to the US Customs Border Patrol for your assistance.

Community on Alert as Police Pursue Aggravated Assault Suspect.

A peaceful Sunday morning in Front Royal, Virginia, was shattered by a disturbing incident of violence. The Front Royal Police Department is now actively searching for 39-year-old Humberto Vazquez, identified as the suspect in a stabbing that left a 35-year-old woman with severe injuries. The attack, which occurred at the intersection of South Street and Osage Street, has sent shockwaves through the community.

Humberto Vazquez. Photo courtesy of RSW 10/11/2022

The incident unfolded on November 19th, 2023, when police were alerted to an alleged stabbing. Arriving at the scene, officers found the victim in a neighboring house on Osage Street, suffering from multiple stab wounds. The attack’s brutality was evident, as the victim was rushed to Winchester Medical Center with injuries described as potentially life-threatening.

In the wake of this violence, the Front Royal Police Department’s detectives engaged in a swift and thorough investigation. Their efforts led to the identification of Humberto Vazquez as the prime suspect. Vazquez, a 5’09” Hispanic male with brown eyes and hair, is now the subject of an intense manhunt.

He is charged with two serious offenses: Aggravated Malicious Wounding, under § 18.2-51.2, and Violation of a Protective Order, under § 16.1-253.2. These charges underscore the severity of the act and the risk he may pose to public safety.

The Front Royal Police Department is calling on the community for assistance. Anyone with information about this case or Vazquez’s whereabouts is urged to contact Detective Cpl. J.E. Fenton. The department has provided a phone number (540-636-2208) and an email address (jfenton@frontroyalva.com) to facilitate community involvement in the search.

The search for Humberto Vazquez is not just a matter of law enforcement but a community concern. This incident has heightened the sense of urgency and vigilance in Front Royal. The police are doing their part, but the assistance of the community could be crucial in ensuring that justice is served and public safety is maintained.

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McDonald Found Guilty on All 34 Criminal Counts in EDA ‘Financial Scandal’ Prosecution

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Just after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1, slightly over four hours after beginning deliberations on the 34 criminal counts against former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald regarding allegedly embezzled or misdirected EDA assets, the six-man, six-woman 10th Western District of Virginia federal jury returned guilty verdicts on all 34 counts. McDonald and her two federal court-appointed attorneys sat quietly at the defense table as each charge, and each verdict was read into the court record consecutively by a court clerk.

Over the objection of lead prosecutor Sean Welsh, Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon allowed McDonald to remain free on bond under the existing guidelines under which she has been free since the 34 federal criminal indictments were handed down by a federal grand jury on August 25, 2021. As has been reported, federal prosecutors inherited the case from two state prosecutors offices, Warren County (recusal due to staff work familiarity with some defendants) and Rockingham County (complexity, time involvement). After her arrests at the state level in mid-2019, McDonald was also free on bond or home arrest for the bulk of the time since she was initially charged at the state level.

Judge Dillon cautioned McDonald, as she said she would any defendant, against violating the terms of her bond, including showing up for her sentencing hearing at an as-yet undetermined point of time, or risk facing additional criminal charges carrying as much as 10 years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines. The judge noted a common 90-day time-frame between conviction and sentencing. She gave the defense 30 days to file any post-conviction motions.

File photo of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, circa 2012, in a playful mood with, from left, former Town Engineer/Manager Steve Burke, County Attorney Doug Napier, and Town Attorney Blair Mitchell. Royal Examiner File Photos Roger Bianchini

In challenging the continuation of McDonald’s bond, prosecutor Welsh pointed to conflicting stories told by two of the defense witnesses the previous day as an indicator the defendant was continuing a pattern of deception to the court to justify her actions in moving EDA assets she now stands convicted of moving fraudulently. Those witnesses were former prosecution witness and former EDA Board of Directors member Ron Llewellyn, and former post-EDA financial scandal-era McDonald employer Justin Simmons. They told conflicting stories about an incident the defense asserts happened this October 22, involving McDonald and Simmons encountering Llewellyn at a church parking lot, leading to an unpleasant verbal exchange. Llewellyn denied the encounter occurred, citing that he was out of town that day at a football game in Salem. The prosecutor asserted certain evidence about a law enforcement search of McDonald’s home property when she wasn’t there and descriptions of her state of mind from a live-stream viewing of it on her phone indicated the church parking lot incident could not have occurred that day.

Defense counsel Andrea Harris countered that the incident time-frames were not mutually exclusive of both possibly having occurred. She said there was no evidence her client posed a threat to her community or to herself, and asserted that her track record of compliance with bond conditions and court appearances with all the charges facing her, indicated she was not a flight risk.

Judge Elizabeth Dillon cautioned defendant Jennifer McDonald not to violate the ongoing conditions of her bond as she awaits a sentencing hearing on her 34 convictions in federal court on Wednesday. Or she could face an additional decade in prison and $250,000 in fines, the judge warned.

In the wake of defense counsel Harris recounting McDonald’s track record of appearing for scheduled hearing and trial dates, other than when she was being treated medically, as noted above Judge Dillon extended McDonald’s bond conditions pending sentencing.

As previously reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors offices, Warren County (recusal due to staff work familiarity with some defendants) and Rockingham County (complexity, time involvement), on August 25, 2021, a 10th Western District of Virginia Federal Grand Jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments against McDonald on charges including bank fraud (10 counts), wire fraud (7), aggravated identity theft (1), and money laundering (16). While total EDA “financial scandal” losses have been estimated at $26-million, including $12 million in the ITFederal loan and related EDA investment, evidence presented at trial indicated McDonald moved over $5 million, perhaps as much as $6.5 million, to her personal benefit. She was initially arrested and charged criminally at the state level in mid-2019.

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After a Spooky Courthouse Halloween McDonald Criminal Trial Goes to the Jury

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After over four hours of closing arguments (prosecution 2:33; defense 1:32; prosecution rebuttal:21-minutes) in the wake of presentation of the defense case in less than an hour with the calling of just three witnesses, the 34-count federal criminal case against former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald went to the jury at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, October 31.

But that wasn’t until after court was delayed for nearly a half hour by an alarm and recorded message: “Fire Emergency reported in the building. Please evacuate the building by the nearest exit. Do not use the elevators,” that went off repetitively for nearly a half hour after beginning at 4:45 p.m. To our knowledge, Fire and Rescue first responders found no fire in the building this Halloween day. But it was a pretty spooky interlude on the final day of the off-again, on-again trial that began on August 21 and saw two delays, the second one of a month, due to various involved party health issues.

First responders may have been as puzzled as building occupants who evacuated as told despite no signs of the ‘fire emergency’ they were told was reported in the building. Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini

Perhaps the most interesting legal development of the day was defense counsel Abigail Thibeault’s closing argument focus on what the prosecution had dismissed as one of the more unbelievable defendant explanations of her movement of EDA money to her own use. That was the defense-alleged secret “Voluntary Settlement Agreement” between the EDA Board of Directors and McDonald to assure her silence and non-suit over what she claimed were sexual harassment and sexual assaults by County officials, including former County Administrator Doug Stanley, among other high-profile local officials. The price of that silence was an alleged $6.5 million the defense contends was agreed to be secretly paid to McDonald, thus explaining some of the movements of EDA assets to her own use that the prosecution presented as evidence of fraud and criminal misdirection of EDA money.

“This is about sexual assault … This story is much bigger” than what the prosecution had presented to them, Thibeault told the jury of the notion that an economically and sexually privileged, male-dominated county elite had set McDonald up to take a fall for challenging their dominance.

During closing arguments, the defense contended their client actually did have significant Hollywood Casino slot machine winnings, evidence of which the prosecution and its investigative teams downplayed. Below, boys will be boys? Jennifer McDonald on the job prior to her December 20, 2018 resignation among escalating questions about her movement of EDA assets into personal uses. The defense contended in closing arguments that McDonald is the victim of a predatory male elite in Warren County and that, in the end, the EDA board became a tool of that elite.

Lead prosecutor Sean Welsh countered Thibeault’s assertions in rebuttal, telling the jury the Voluntary Settlement Agreement theory was countered by multiple pieces of evidence the prosecution had presented to them. He pointed to other prosecution witness-testified false allegations McDonald is alleged to have made to explain some of her financial transfers to achieve real estate and other transactions. Among those were Larry Tuttle’s alleged financing of several McDonald/Da Boyz LLC real estate deals he testified he had no financial assets to accomplish. Why lie about such things if there was a simple explanation, such as the EDA Board of Directors authorizing the transfer of assets to McDonald? Welsh asked the jury.

The defense team and defendant, among others, wait for the all-clear to re-enter the federal courthouse in Harrisonburg Tuesday afternoon around 5 p.m. after a ‘fire emergency’ announcement cleared the building on Halloween Day.

After the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse building was evacuated and cleared of any fire and the prosecution’s closing rebuttal was completed, a final round of procedural instructions from Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon was given to the jury. The jury was then sent out to select a foreman and determine whether they wanted to begin deliberations immediately or return the following day. After 10 minutes, the court was informed the jury had decided to return on Wednesday to begin the final chapter of this trial. Questioned about a preferred starting time by the judge, they opted for a 9 a.m. start Wednesday morning.

As previously reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors offices, Warren County (recusal due to staff work familiarity with some defendants) and Rockingham County (complexity, time involvement), on August 25, 2021, a 10th Western District of Virginia Federal Grand Jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments against McDonald on charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. Those charges are related to the alleged misdirection of an estimated $ 26 million in municipal and EDA assets to personal use and enrichment of McDonald and alleged co-conspirators.

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Judge Denies ‘Renewed’ McDonald Defense Mistrial Motion – Defense Case to Open Tuesday, October 31

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Following a closed evidentiary hearing Thursday afternoon, October 27, Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon denied a “renewed” defense motion for a mistrial due to repeated delays in the federal criminal prosecution of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald. The defense initially called for a mistrial on September 26. While taking that motion under advisement, Judge Dillon expressed a preference for the alternative of “briefly suspending the trial” to accommodate apparent health issues with the defendant and resuming it as an alternative to a mistrial. The trial is now scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, October 31, with the anticipated opening of the defense case. November 1 has also been set aside to accommodate the defense presentation, any motions, closing arguments, and jury instructions before the case is handed over to the jury for deliberations.

The scheduled start of what is expected to be a brief defense presentation, perhaps taking less than a full day with three or less witnesses being called, was again delayed on Friday, October 27. The scheduled 10th Western District of Virginia federal court starting time of 8:30 a.m. was adjusted late Thursday to a 3 p.m. Friday start. And shortly after that late Friday start and the beginning of the remote connection of several witnesses to be called during the hearing, Judge Dillon asked if either counsel wanted to request that the hearing be closed to the public.

Tuesday and Wednesday, October 31 and November 1, have been set aside for the conclusion of the criminal trial of Jennifer McDonald at the federal courthouse in Harrisonburg, Va. – Royal Examiner File Photo Roger Bianchini

“Yes, your honor,” was the reply from the court-appointed defense team of Andrea Harris and Abigail Thibeault. It might be noted that defendant McDonald was again not present at the defense table, as she had not been after lunch break the previous day. A clue as to that absence and the defense request for a closed hearing may have been heard during the beginning of the remote witness connection process. One of those witnesses was referred to as “doctor” and a comment concerning “the name of the patient you’ll be discussing” was made. According to the PACER court website, a total of five people testified during the closed hearing of October 27, all of them cited as doctors: “1. Dr. Miklos Szentirmai – via Zoom 2. Dr. David Saenz – via Zoom 3. Dr. John Craig Henry – via Zoom 4. Dr. Anne Bagley 5. Dr. Melanie Matson – via Zoom …”

As noted in yesterday’s story on the closing of the prosecution case and delay in opening the defense case, defense counsel told the court that their client had a cardiac pacemaker installed recently in the wake of health issues leading to a recurring elevated heart rate and blood pressure that led to a delay of a month, Sept. 26 to Oct. 26, in the trial.

File photo of Jennifer McDonald following one of her arrests at the state level in July 2019. Following one of those arrests, McDonald was transported for medical care believed related to elevated heart rate and blood pressure issues that have seemingly recurred during this trial.

Background
As previously reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors’ offices, Warren County (recusal due to staff work familiarity with some defendants) and Rockingham County (complexity, time involvement), on August 25, 2021, a 10th Western District of Virginia Federal Grand Jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments against Jennifer McDonald on charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. Those charges are related to the alleged misdirection of an estimated $ 26 million in municipal and EDA assets to personal use and enrichment of McDonald and alleged co-conspirators. The latter are yet to be indicted criminally at the federal level, likely due to speedy trial issues. A number of alleged co-conspirators were charged criminally at the state level, with charges then dropped by Warren County prosecutors to prevent defense motions for dismissal due to looming speedy trial statute violations. The case has been defined as “complex” due to the amount of evidentiary material involved, cited at well over a million pages of doc

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Prosecution Rests in McDonald Trial – Recent Health Procedure of Defendant Revealed as Start of Defense Case Delayed After Lunch Break

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The prosecution in the federal criminal trial of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) Executive Director Jennifer McDonald rested after the testimony of the final of its 57 witnesses Thursday morning, October 26. That witness was Kevin Nicholson, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forensic accountant. In direct examination, Nicholson testified about the path of funds originating with the EDA to McDonald, as well as her husband Samuel North, that were used in a series of personal real estate and other transactions, including the paying off of various personal bills, as well as the use of ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran’s name in one of those real estate transactions on property located at 2890 Buck Mountain Road.

During Monday’s hearing announcing the two-day delay of the trial to Thursday due to technical evidentiary issues, the prosecution had estimated Nicholson being on the stand for 90 minutes to two hours. After an hour and 20 minutes of direct examination tracing those multiple financial transactions the prosecution asserts were evidence of the various levels of fraud and the one aggravated identity theft charge involving Tran that McDonald is accused of, Nicholson was cross-examined for five minutes by the defense, with another two minutes of re-direct examination. During cross and re-direct examination defense and prosecution counsel sparred over the exclusion of some transactions in Nicholson’s chart references and the terminology of “loan” or “line of credit” used by Nicholson during his testimony. The defense also elicited an admission by Nicholson that he had worked with the prosecution in the assembly of some of the evidence presented in support of the prosecution’s case.

The lengthy and often delayed federal criminal trial of Jennifer McDonald related to the EDA ‘financial scandal’ seems to be winding down to a close at Harrisonburg’s federal courthouse – if the defendant’s health holds up. Royal Examiner File Photos Roger Bianchini

Following Nicholson’s hour and 20 minutes on the stand, the prosecution rested at 10:35 a.m. However, rather than moving directly to the opening of the defense case, the jury was dismissed as the defense filed motions for dismissal of several of the charges against their client as unproved by the prosecution evidence presented. Those dismissals involved several cases of bank and wire fraud, as well as the aggravated identity theft involving the use of Tran’s name in the Buck Mountain Road transaction. After an involved defense presentation, the prosecution argued against the standards cited by the defense, asserting that they had proved not only fraud but the use of Tran’s name to facilitate a real estate transaction they believe the bank would not have approved with only McDonald’s name attached to it.

Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon said she would need time to review some of the evidence cited in the dueling arguments, and she would reserve a decision on the defense motions for dismissal of some counts — 8 thru 10 and 14 thru 17 — “at this time.” Judge Dillon then asked if the defense was ready to present evidence in their case. This led to a brief consultation with their client, after which the defense team of Andria Harris and Abigail Thibeault asked for five minutes to consult with their client. At that point, at 10 minutes of noon, Judge Dillon called the jury back in and released them for lunch. Following the five-minute break, the judge noted that defense counsel had told her that McDonald would invoke her Fifth Amendment Constitutional right against self-incrimination, declining to testify. Judge Dillon then queried McDonald on her decision, asking if it was, in fact, her decision alone not to testify.

“Yes, mam,” McDonald responded.

The judge then overruled a prosecution objection to the calling or recalling of certain witnesses by the defense. Former EDA board member Ron Llewellyn, who had testified for the prosecution, was present in the hallway outside the courtroom as a potential defense witness. It was a situation he did not seem overly pleased about. However, Judge Dillon noted that the prosecution could object to certain lines of questioning during the disputed witness’s testimony.

Court then adjourned for lunch at 12:01 p.m. When court was reconvened at 1 p.m., the judge took both prosecution and defense counsel into chambers for discussion. The jury was brought in at 1:15 p.m. while the judge and counsel were still in chambers. Twenty minutes later, the judge and counsel returned to the courtroom. Judge Dillon then dismissed the jury, instructing them to return for an 8:30 a.m. start of the defense case the next day, adding that she anticipated the case being turned over to them for deliberations before the end of the day on Friday.

Ongoing health issues?

An unexpected piece of information was revealed by defense counsel shortly after court was convened Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. That was that their client had recently “had a pacemaker installed” in the wake of her health issues that delayed the trial for a month, from September 26 to October 26. Those issues, according to sources, were a collapsed lung due to pneumonia and consequent raised heart rate and blood pressure that sent McDonald back to the hospital when the trial had been expected to resume in the last week of September.

McDonald was not in court with her counsel after the lunch break. One person present outside the third-floor courtroom after lunch said there had been word EMTs were present outside the courthouse. Attorneys on both sides of the aisle declined comment on whether EMTs had been summoned for the defendant. However, with her recent elevated blood pressure and heart rate issues, it might be noted that the courthouse elevator became un-operational early in the day on Thursday. While leaving for lunch break, McDonald had stepped aside to let several people following her to the stairs to pass, as she said it might take her a while to make it down. One might wonder how the long climb up those stairs after lunch might have impacted her health-wise, apparently not too long after having a pacemaker installed.

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