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Update: Accused Brinklow murderer gets 30-years-9-months on plea agreement and probation violation charges

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(Writer’s note: This story has been updated with corrections to the description of circumstances that led prosecutors to give more weight to George Good’s account of Tristen Brinklow’s murder, than to Richard Crouch’s.)

Following emotional testimony from Jennifer Brinklow, the mother of 20-year-old Tristen Brinklow on the devastating impact on her life of her son’s 2019 murder, and a perhaps surprisingly emotional series of apologies from his accused killer for his role in that murder, the Commonwealth and defense counsels debated at which end of sentencing guidelines 38-year-old Richard Matthew Crouch should be incarcerated on Second Degree Murder and related and unrelated charges he submitted guilty pleas to as part of a plea agreement.

By plea agreement already accepted by Warren County Circuit Court Judge William Sharp, the sentencing range was between 8-years-and-7-months and 28 years-and-9-months. The other involved suspect, George Good, received a 10-year prison sentence with 25 years suspended on August 13, on a similar plea agreement involving two charges of helping Crouch dispose of Brinklow’s body and a variety of unrelated charges. Good was 29 at the time of his sentencing three months ago.

After hearing about an hour and a half of testimony, questions, and arguments Judge Sharp adjourned to chambers at noon, Monday, November 29th to consider his sentencing decision. After 17 minutes Judge Sharp returned to deliver his ruling. That ruling was the high-end 28-years-and-9-months according to sentencing parameters of the plea agreement, after imposing two, 5-year sentences on concealing and defiling (allowing to decompose) a dead body; and 30 years on the Second Degree Murder charge. Crouch will also get credit for time served, about two years. It was said that currently it is estimated that inmates will serve about 85% of their sentence with good behavior time taken off. Crouch also had four, 5-year sentences related to an earlier attack on an ex-girlfriend and his drug possession with intent to distribute charges imposed with all 20 years suspended. He will be on supervised probation for five years after his release.


While getting credit for his time served, two years was later tacked on to the 28-year-9-month sentence, on a probation violation charge argued outside the plea agreement. Arguing that aspect of the cases, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Nick Manthos countered defense co-counsel Eric Wiseley’s call to waive the two additional years of active incarceration after his client received nearly three times the sentence George Good did for their respective roles in Brinklow’s murder.

Richard Matthew Crouch in July 2021 mug shot from Northwestern Adult Regional Detention Center. Below, charged as an accessory in the murder of Tristen Brinklow, George Lee Good (Oct. 2020 RSW Jail mug shot). Good received 10 years of active incarceration for his believed role in the killing. On Monday Crouch was sentenced to a total of 30 years and 9 months.

Manthos, as Commonwealth Attorney John Bell had earlier, noted that while Crouch held to his story that it was Good who actually beat Brinklow to death, the physical evidence matched Goods story that it was Crouch who attacked and strangled Brinklow to death in a methamphetamine-induced paranoid delusional state. Crouch did admit to being up for at least five days straight, perhaps as many as 10 days, doing an extraordinary amount of methamphetamine – he estimated at 3.5 grams (an 8-ball) to twice that amount per day – while trying to finance being on the run from police from an incident several days earlier in which he non-fatally had strangled an ex-girlfriend.

In ascertaining the relative merits of the two involved men’s stories, the Commonwealth noted that in his earlier attack on the ex-girlfriend, Crouch had not only choked her, but cut off a portion of her hair with a knife. Good’s description of the murder included Crouch’s choking of Brinklow and cutting off some of his hair with a knife. And when Good led authorities to a carpet and trash bags of evidence the pair had removed from the motel room where the murder occurred, one of the bags was found to contain a wad of hair matching Brinklow’s. Brinklow’s autopsy also discovered a broken bone in his neck indicative of strangulation.

Those aspects of the earlier Crouch attack on the ex-girlfriend were not known to Good, the prosecution told the court, bolstering Good’s version of events.

The fact that all the crimes he enter guilty pleas to, including the assault on his ex, the methamphetamine use, and dealing, as well as Brinklow’s murder, occurred while Crouch was on probation led Judge Sharp to side with the prosecution on the necessity of imposing the two probation violation years hanging over Crouch – “There has to be a consequence, otherwise probation means nothing,” Judge Sharp said in rendering his decision on that second part of the day’s hearing on Crouch’s fate behind bars.

While admitting to the drug use and paranoid state leading him to believe that he was going to be robbed of his meth stash worth several thousand dollars, Crouch insisted that Brinklow coming at him with a knife and Good’s response of pulling him off Crouch and beating him to death was not a part of his drug-induced delusions. However, it seemed Crouch and his attorney in the plea sentencing, Howard Manheimer, may have been the only two in court buying into that scenario. It appeared seven relatives and friends accompanied Jennifer Brinklow to court Monday.
Several times asked by the court if he had anything to say before decisions were rendered, Crouch in a low, emotional voice expressed remorse, saying, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry with all my heart.” Crouch told the court and Brinklow’s mother that he had become involved in a jailhouse ministry conducted at RSW and related drug abuse counseling to try and steer inmates away from drug addiction upon their release.

He also looked at Tristen’s mother testifying from the witness box directly in front of him as she recounted the multiple impacts, including being told she now suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Shock Disorder) in the wake of her son’s murder. “I didn’t know a person could live without a heart and soul,” Mrs. Brinklow told the courtroom of her life since December 13, 2019, when she was informed it was her missing son’s body discovered in an abandoned refrigerator near the river. The murder occurred in September 2019.

She said tears came often, stimulated by “a smell, food, a cloud – ANYTHING. I never had anxiety, now there are places I can’t go without breaking down … It’s beyond obvious those two did not know Trey – a few minutes with him and he’d give you anything he had … Four days after he turned 20 you took his life – he was just a kid.”

 

Tristen Brinklow’s photo from the family social media page was reproduced and displayed in court Monday in support of his mother Jennifer Brinklow’s testimony as an auxiliary victim of her son’s murder. A second photo of him with his mother and grandmother was also displayed. Below, ‘Justice for Trey’ demonstrators outside George Good’s plea agreement hearing in August. More support was promised during Monday’s plea hearing for Richard Matthew Crouch.

Following the rendering of his plea agreement sentence of 28-years-9-months, Judge Sharp told Crouch he hoped he made the best out of the portion of his life that will now be spent in prison; that he was truly remorseful for letting a dangerous, illegal drug get a grip on his life that led to this point; and that he would continue to work to counsel others away from a similar fate, and turn his life in a positive direction.

“I wish you luck,” the judge told Crouch.

“Thank you,” Crouch replied.

 

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Warren County Grand Jury of August 8, 2022 indictments

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The Warren County Grand Jury of August 8, 2022, has issued the following indictments:

THE GRAND JURY CHARGES THAT:

 

JACOB BRILL

On or about May 28, 2022, in the County of Warren, Jacob Dennis Brill did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Methamphetamine listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5


 

JUSTIN WEBSTER

On or about April 7, 2022,  in the County of Warren, Justin Lee Webster did unlawfully and feloniously commit an assault and battery against Officer Colt Leatch, knowing or having reason to know that such person was a law enforcement officer as defined in §53.1-1 of the Code of Virginia, engaged in the performance of his public duties, in violation of §18.2-57(C) of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: ASL-1342-F6

 

CHRISTOPHER ARDIZZIONE

On or about March 12, 2022, in the County of Warren, Christopher Matthew Ardizzione did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to wit:
Cocaine listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

DANIEL BEAVERS

COUNT ONE: On or about June 11, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers did unlawfully and feloniously distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance in violation of Section
18.2-248, of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3045-F9

COUNT TWO: On or about June 11, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers did unlawfully and feloniously, while having the custody of J.B., a child, willfully or negligently cause or permit the life of such child to be endangered, in violation of Section 40.1-103, of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: FAM-3810-F6

COUNT THREE: On or about June 21, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers did unlawfully and feloniously distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance, in violation
of Section 18.2-248 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3045-F9

COUNT FOUR: On or about June 23, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers did unlawfully and feloniously conspire to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance,
in violation of Section 18.2-248 and 256 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3012-C9

 

DANIEL BEAVERS

COUNT ONE: On or about June 23, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers, did unlawfully and feloniously possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule I or II controlled
substance, in violation of Section 18.2-248 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3043-F9

COUNT TWO: On or about June 23, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers, did unlawfully and feloniously possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule I or II controlled
substance, in violation of Section 18.2-248 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3043-F9

COUNT THREE: On or about June 23, 2022, in the County of Warren, Daniel Dewayne Beavers, did unlawfully and feloniously possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance, in violation of Section 18.2-248 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3043-F9

 

STACY ROBBINS

On or about June 30, 2021, in the County of Warren, Stacy Renee Robbins did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Fentanyl, listed in 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

 

NATHAN LINDGREN

COUNT ONE: On or about March 29, 2022, through March 31, 2022, in the County of Warren, Nathan Scott Lindgren unlawfully and feloniously used a communications system or other electronic means for the purpose of procuring or promoting the use of a minor for any activity in violation of Section 18.2-370 of the Code of Virginia, 1950 as amended, in violation of Section
18.2-374.3(c) of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: OBS-3701-F5

COUNT TWO: On or about March 29, 2022, through March 31, 2022, in the County of Warren, Nathan Scott Lindgren did unlawfully and feloniously, being eighteen years of age or older, attempt with lascivious intent, knowingly and intentionally propose an act of sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus, or an act constituting an offense under Section 18.2-361 to B.L., a child under the age of 15 who is not the spouse of the accused, in violation of Sections 18.2-26 and 18.2-370 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC:
SEX-3643-A5

 

VICTORIA DEAVERS

On or about April 5, 2022, in the County of Warren, Victoria Marie Deavers did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Fentanyl, listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

HUNTER ANDREWS

On or about December 24, 2021, in the County of Warren, Hunter Deforest Andrews did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Heroin listed in Schedule I of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

On or about January 17, 2022, in the County of Warren, Hunter Deforest Andrews did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Fentanyl, listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

DUSTIN COLLINS

On or about February 26, 2022, in the County of Warren, Dustin Kyle Collins did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Cocaine listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

RHETT BOHLING

On or about June 5, 2021, in the County of Warren, Rhett Travis Bohling did unlawfully and feloniously maliciously burn or cause to be burned, or destroy or caused to be destroyed by the use of an explosive device or substance, in whole or part, the dwelling house or manufactured home of Victoria Bohling, in violation of Section 18.2-77 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended. VCC: ARS-2003-F9

 

PAMELA BUTLER

On or about September 10, 2021, in the County of Warren, Pamela Sue Butler did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Cocaine listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

MIQUEL MALDONADO

COUNT ONE: On or about April 11, 2022, in the County of Warren, Miguel Marcos Antonio Maldonado 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, with the accused having committed this offense after having commintted two prior violations of Section 18.2-266 or provisions of law set forth in subsection E of Section 18.2-270 within the ten-year period ending on the date of the current offense. The prior violations and the current offense were not all committed within the five-year period ending on the date of the current offense, in violation of Sections 18.2-266 and 18.2-270 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: DWI-5449-F6

COUNT TWO: On or about April 11, 2022, in the County of Warren, Miguel Marcos Antonio Maldonado did unlawfully and feloniously while having been the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident in which a person was injured or an attended vehicle or other attended property was damaged, did unlawfully and feloniously fail to immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic and fail to report the accused’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to the State Police or local law enforcement agency, to the person struck and injured or to the driver or some other occupant of the vehicle collided with or to the custodian of the other damaged property. The accident resulted in damage to property valued at $1,000.00 or more, in violation of Section 46.2-894 of the Code of Virginia, 1950. VCC: HIT-6604-F5

 

WILLIE ROBBINS

On or about May 1, 2022, in the County of Warren, Willie Robert Robbins did unlawfully and feloniously possess a Schedule I or II controlled substance, to wit: Fentanyl, in violation of Section 18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

ASHLEY LOPEZ

On or about May 20, 2022, in the County of Warren, Ashley Michelle Lopez 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

 

 

JUSTIN DEAVERS

On or about April 9, 2022, in the County of Warren, Justin Lee Deavers did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Fentanyl, listed in Schedule II of the Drug Control Act, in violation of § 18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

BRANDON COMFORT

On or about June 6, 2022, in the County of Warren, Brandon Roberts Comfort a/ka Brenden N. Roberts, a/ka John Doe, 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 ofthe Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3022-F5

 

CHRISTOPHER MCCAULEY

COUNT ONE: On or about April 7, 2022, in the County of Warren, Christopher Michael McCauley did unlawfully and feloniously possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance, to-wit: Metharaphetamine, in violation of Section 18.2-248, of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3043-F9

COUNT ONE: On or about April 7, 2022, in the County of Warren, Christopher Michael McCauley did unlawfully and feloniously possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled
substance, to-wit: Cocaine, in violation of Section 18.2-248, of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3043-F9

 

ALISHA MERRITT

On or about April 20, 2019, in the County of Warren, Alisha Renee Merritt did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to-wit: Methamphetamine listed in 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

 

GRANT SAGER

COUNT ONE: On or about March 20, 2021, in the County of Warren, Grant Lee Sager did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, to wit: Methamphetamine listed in 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 March 20, 2021, in the County of Warren, Grant Lee Sager did unlawfully and feloniously, knowingly, and intentionally possess a controlled substance, towit: Clonazepam, listed in Schedule IV of the Drug Control Act, in violation of §18.2-250 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. VCC: NAR-3024-M2

 

 

 

 

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17-year-old charged with ‘Driving Under the Influence’ in fatal Rockingham County two-vehicle collision – speed also cited as factor in ongoing investigation

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According to Virginia State Police (VSP) a 17-year-old driver has been charged with “Driving Under the Influence” in the death of a 71-year-old driver in a mid-evening two-vehicle collision Wednesday, August 3, in Rockingham County. According to the VSP press release on the accident the northbound 2008 BMW driven by the unidentified 17-year-old minor male was “traveling at a high rate of speed” when it and a 1997 Mercury Villager attempting to make a left turn onto Route 42 after stopping at a westbound stop sign on Route 765, collided. There was one passenger in each vehicle, another 17-year-old male in the BMW, and a 78-year-old female in the Mercury. The investigation into the accident continues with additional charges being a possibility.

Both occupants of the Mercury, driver Gerald L. Will (71) of Hinton, Va., and Jean E. Will (78) also of Hinton, were transported from the scene with life-threatening injuries. The State Police Press Release from the desk of VSP Public Information Officer Sgt. Brent Coffey reported that the two involved 17-year-olds suffered “minor injuries” and were also transported from the scene for treatment. Ms. Will was transported to the UVA Medical Center, the other three involved parties to the Sentara RMH Medical Center. VSP reported that all four involved people were wearing seatbelts when the accident occurred.

Below is the VSP release on the fatal collision in its entirety:

Virginia State Police Trooper J. Joseph is investigating a two-vehicle fatal crash in Rockingham County. The crash occurred Wednesday, (August 3) at 9:25 p.m. at the intersection of Route 42 (Harpine Hwy) and Route 765 (Buttermilk Creek Rd).


A 1997 Mercury Villager was traveling west on Route 765 when it stopped at a stop sign. As the Mercury attempted a left turn onto Route 42 it collided with a northbound 2008 BMW 328I. The BMW was traveling at a high rate of speed.

The driver of the Mercury, Gerald L. Will, 71, of Hinton, Va., suffered life-threatening injuries due to the crash and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries. He was wearing a seatbelt.

A passenger in the Mercury, Jean E. Will, 78, of Hinton, Va., suffered life-threatening injuries due to the crash and was transported to UVA Medical Center for treatment. She was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the BMW, a 17-year-old male, of Harrisonburg, Va., suffered minor injuries due to the crash and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center for treatment. The male was wearing a seatbelt.

A passenger in the BMW, a 17 year-old male, of Rockingham, Va., suffered minor injuries and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center for treatment. He was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the BMW was charged with driving under the influence.

The crash remains under investigation.

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EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne reacts to July civil litigation results ordering total of over $13.35 million paid to the County Economic Development Authority

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As noted in our lead story on the “Warren Economic Development Authority” (EDA) versus Truc “Curt” Tran and his ITFederal LLC company civil liability case result (See: Jury awards WC EDA $11.9 million-plus in civil compensatory claims against ITFederal and Truc ‘Curt’ Tran), involved players on the plaintiff’s side deferred to current EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne for a reaction, not only to the Tran/ITFederal result, but a month in which four civil liability cases went the EDA’s way. After a day of reflection on this month’s civil liability trials, much of which he watched in the courtroom, often with other EDA board members, this is what Browne told Royal Examiner:

“As part of the Jennifer McDonald lawsuits, the EDA successfully sued six defendants this month in four civil jury trials and was awarded about $13 million in compensatory damages, $400,000 in punitive damages, and $75,000 in damages for statutory conspiracy. There will be additional civil trials in March 2023.

“The EDA’s main responsibility in these lawsuits is to recover assets that rightfully belong to the EDA and ultimately to the residents of Warren County. It’s a work in progress, but I’m pleased with the outcomes. Every defendant was found liable on multiple charges. Every defendant has to pay. A jury found that the EDA Board of Directors with oversight responsibility of Jennifer McDonald wasn’t negligent in retaining her as it took immediate steps after finding solid evidence of her misbehavior.

EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, left, and former EDA and County Attorney Dan Whitten at a Sept. 2019 EDA meeting. Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini


“But that isn’t the whole story. Members of the EDA Board were present on every day of every trial. We were impressed with the juries and Judge Albertson. Jury members listened attentively, took notes, and showed in their verdicts that they had a command of the facts in each case. Judge Albertson was fair to both sides of each case and did a good job of managing each trial. Prior members of the EDA Board, prior staff EDA members, a former county administrator, and former members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors all stepped up to testify and do their civic duty. We can be proud that our judicial system still works.

“The criminal process moves forward in other venues. In the meantime, some measure of justice is present in the jury verdicts in Warren County this month. For that, we are grateful.”

Coupled with the out-of-court “no-fault” settlement agreement with McDonald for an estimated $9 million in real estate assets, the courts have now ordered the return of $22 million to $23 million in assets to the EDA. At various points in the investigation into alleged embezzlement and misdirection of EDA assets between 2014 and 2018, the total involved amount has been cited from $21 million to $26 million. There have been significant legal fees involved, perhaps $6 million or more. But in the wake of this month’s results, it appears the EDA’s contracted civil counsel from the Sands Anderson law firm of Richmond are earning that money.

Asked for a reaction to the verdict, Tran and his attorney Gregory Melus declined comment. As noted in the above linked story on the verdict, Melus notified the court of his intention to file a motion to overturn the verdict as not supported by the evidence presented at trial, as have the other three involved civil case defense attorneys.

The Sands Anderson legal team that culminated a successful 4-for-4 month of WC EDA civil liability trials ordering the return of a total of over $13.35-million in misdirected EDA assets from six defendants, including two companies named as co-defendants in the Poe and Tran trials. From left, the plaintiff legal team is paralegal Kimberly Paulsrud and attorneys Lee Byrd, Karissa Kaseorg, and Cullen Seltzer.

Click here to see the previous stories.

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Jury awards WC EDA $11.9 million-plus in civil compensatory claims against ITFederal and Truc ‘Curt’ Tran

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After five hours of deliberation beginning shortly after 9 a.m., at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, July 28, a Warren County Circuit Court civil case jury awarded the “Warren Economic Development Authority” (aka EDA, WC EDA, FR-WC EDA) a total of $11,919,313.38, plus some interest payments from defendants Truc “Curt” Tran and his ITFederal LLC company. The finding of liability against the defendants related to exchanges of money for Tran and ITFederals’ plan to develop a 30-acre parcel at the 148-acre Royal Phoenix Business Park portion of the former Avtex Superfund site in Front Royal. That seven-person civil case jury also dismissed all counterclaims by co-defendants Tran and ITFederal related to breach of contract and surrounding claims against the EDA.

However, the jury did not find the defendants liable on claims of Conspiracy and Fraud that could have led to significant punitive damages up to $350,000, or as high as triple the compensatory claim of $11.9 million if found guilty of statutory conspiracy indicating malice against the plaintiff. Tran was found liable on claims of Conversion, Unjust Enrichment, and Ultra Vires, the latter actions outside the authority of involved officials. ITFederal was found liable on claims Conversion, Unjust Enrichment, Ultra Vires, and Breach of Contract.

The breakdown of liability of the defendants was $1,499,986 against Tran, plus 3-1/4 years of interest on that amount accumulated since the March 2019 filing of the EDA civil actions against defendants alleged to have worked with former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald between 2014 and 2018 to defraud the EDA out of an estimated $21-million. The $11.9-million claim of compensatory damages against Tran and ITFederal was the largest single portion of the EDA civil liability actions for recovery of lost assets. With approval of a bankruptcy court judge, McDonald settled EDA claims against her in an out-of-court “no-fault” settlement for what was cited as $9 million in real estate assets.

Truc ‘Curt’ Tran was not smiling after Thursday’s jury verdict finding him personally liable for $1.49-million and his ITFederal company liable for another $10.4-million surrounding the EDA’s $10-million loan for the aborted Avtex 30-acre, Lot 6 ‘Brownfield’ redevelopment project. Testimony during the four-day trial indicated suspicions began compounding about then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s, below, financial transactions following publication of a February 2018 Royal Examiner story on alleged slot machine winnings claimed to have provided the cash for a number of her personal real estate transactions.


As noted at the time of publication a week later: January 2018 Royal Examiner file photo of Jennifer McDonald in her EDA office displaying tax receipts she said indicated winnings at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. Coincidentally, the blue star on her chair is the logo of her favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys from whom the real estate LLC ‘DaBoyz’ name was taken.

From testimony over four days of trial in the Tran/ITFederal liability case that $1.499-million finding against Tran related to EDA payments made to Tran under the pretense it was front money that would be reimbursed to the EDA by a $1.5 million Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) grant that was never acquired, or even applied for.

The finding of liability for $10,419,327.38 against ITFederal revolved around the $8,419,327.38 balance of a $10-million loan/promissory note the EDA gave the company to begin development of the ITFederal parcel behind the EDA offices in the old Avtex Administration building off Kendrick Lane. As noted in previous stories (see LINKS at end of story) on testimony and evidence presented during the trial, ITFederal was presented to the EDA Board of Directors in 2015-16 by then Sixth District Congressman Robert Goodlatte as not really needing the loan. Past EDA board members Greg Drescher and Ron Llewellyn testified that Goodlatte suggested the loan as a public relations move to illustrate Virginia’s positive work with the private sector to redevelop a former federal Superfund “brownfield” site.

Consequently, despite the written-in 30-year payback loan term, EDA officials believed it was actually being done as a short-term public relations effort, and would be paid back in a matter of months when what they believed was an existing $140-million ITFederal contract with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) kicked in. A McDonald representation to her board that Tran would become an “anonymous donor” of $8-million to a proposed Criminal Justice Academy project then being worked on by the EDA, was seen as the start of that early repayment, the former EDA board members testified.

It appears this civil case jury, as three before it this month, have rejected a defense theory of the case asserting that the defendants were unwitting victims of McDonald’s alleged lies concerning the movement of EDA assets, just as the EDA was victimized. Plaintiff attorneys from the Sands Anderson law firm of Richmond, Va., countered those arguments by asking the jury to “follow the money” to see who benefited from the misinformation they allege McDonald was giving the EDA board, as well as EDA auditors.

During the previous morning session on Wednesday, the two sides presented their final witnesses: for the defense Mark Viola, proprietor of Viola Engineering, who did geo-technical work for Tran on the ITFederal site regarding construction delays related to underground discoveries of old utility piping and substances; and in plaintiff rebuttal to some of the previous day’s defense assertions, former County and EDA attorney Dan Whitten.

Late Wednesday, the court heard motions from both sides to strike the opposition claims against their clients. After listening to extensive arguments from both sides, Judge Albertson denied all motions to strike claims by either side, preferring as he has reviewing similar motions in earlier EDA civil liability cases this month, to allow the jury to make the decision on the substance of each sides’ claims against the other. After adjourning to dinner of pizza ordered to the courthouse for them around 7 p.m., the jury returned at 7:25 p.m. to say they preferred to go home and begin deliberations Thursday morning, which Judge Albertson agreed to.

Early Wednesday evening the EDA vs. Tran/ITFederal civil case jury told the court they preferred to begin deliberations the next morning, rather than into the evening hours that night.

As the three previous defense attorneys have following findings in the EDA’s favor this month, Tran/ITFederal counsel Gregory Melus notified the court he would file a motion to overturn the jury verdict. Those motions appear based on a defense contention evidence produced at trial was inadequate to justify conviction. A 30/30/10 day filing and response time schedule was set, though plaintiff counsel indicated if Melus needed additional time due to scheduling conflicts, that would not be a problem.

With motions to overturn on the table, counsel for both sides declined comment following Thursday’s verdict. Current EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, who observed much of the trial along with board members Jim Wolfe, Scott Jenkins, and Greg Harold, indicated that after speaking with counsel and some consideration he might have a response for the media shortly. See that EDA response in related story posted when available.

Click here to see the previous stories.

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Crime/Court

Local man sentenced with misdemeanor sexual battery in Culpeper case

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Front Royal businessman William Huck was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in a Culpeper General District courtroom Wednesday and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Huck’s charge is related to a Feb. 26 incident, according to a Culpeper Police Department (CPD) news release issued in April. The release stated that the allegation was made by an adult female who was part of a group of which Huck was included attending the Culpeper Downtown Carnival.

The group reportedly went to several locations in the downtown Culpeper area before returning to a town residence where the female alleged she was inappropriately touched several times without her consent or permission.

The CPD release stated that other adults intervened when the alleged incident occurred; alcohol was a factor, according to police.


Huck was released on a $3,000 bond following an April 1 arrest by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Huck owns C & C Frozen treats. He is represented by Front Royal attorney David Downes, who declined to comment on the case, which is being appealed.

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Crime/Court

EDA civil liability defendant ‘Curt’ Tran on witness stand for over 4-1/2 hours as trial heads into final day

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Tuesday, July 26, the third day of the “Warren Economic Development Authority” versus Truc “Curt” Tran and ITFederal LLC civil liability and counter-suit case was highlighted by the defendant’s 4-hours-and-37-minutes on the witness stand. That time started with a 2-hour-25-minute near monologue on direct examination, followed by 1-hour-58-minutes of sometimes contentious cross-examination by EDA co-counsel Lee Byrd and a fortuitously briefer 14 minutes of redirect examination by defense attorney Gregory Melus. On direct examination, Tran recounted his life story, beginning as an 11-to-12-year-old refugee to America in the wake of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon, leading into his work in data storage with the federal government and private sector, culminating with his efforts to develop a federally funded data center and import/export business in Front Royal and Warren County.

During that direct examination, Tran managed to recount a series of circumstances involving not only former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and a lack of supervisory EDA Board of Directors oversight of McDonald, but also shifting federal program guidelines, former President Barack Obama, and failed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among reasons his projects here failed. The latter two involved a failure of the federal government during Obama’s presidential tenure to sign into law the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade agreement that might have helped facilitate the import-export business Tran had hoped to create with his ITFederal company involving the cattle farm production of beef on acreage purchased off Happy Creek Road.

‘Curt’ Tran on site in front of his controversial reduced size ITFederal building as seen from the EDA office parking lot on Dec. 20, 2018, the day Jennifer McDonald resigned as EDA executive director under mounting scrutiny from her board of directors. Testimony from then-EDA board member Ron Llewellyn indicated Tran had lobbied for McDonald to retain her job at that time.

During a sometimes explosive cross-examination, Tran conditionally insinuated that several previous witnesses may have perjured themselves during testimony regarding circumstances of his agreements on the ITFederal project. Those witnesses in the defendant’s crosshairs of scrutiny included former EDA and County Attorney Dan Whitten, former EDA board member Ron Llewellyn, and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) official Debbie Melvin.


In fact, Tran appeared to flirt with accusing former U.S. 6th District of Virginia Congressman Robert Goodlatte of, if not perjury, since he was not called as a witness for either side, but potential past lying were testimony from other witnesses, including Whitten, Llewellyn, and Greg Drescher, to be proven true regarding Goodlatte’s lobbying for Tran/ITFederal to receive the $10-million EDA loan for the Avtex site ITFederal project on a short-term basis as a positive public relations initiative for Virginia.

“I never say short-term, I didn’t say that – did he say that?” Tran wondered of multiple witnesses saying Goodlatte presented the $10-million dollar loan for the ITFederal project as a public relations effort to attract more business interest in Virginia rather than a loan Tran and his company actually needed to achieve their planned Avtex site federal data center development. With one defense witness remaining to be called Wednesday, one might wish Goodlatte was that witness to address that question, though he has not appeared on a prospective witness list.

The jury is expected to go to deliberations in the EDA vs. ‘Curt’ Tran/ITFederal civil liability case this afternoon, Wednesday, July 27.

Prior to sending the jury home at 7:02 p.m. Tuesday, Judge Bruce D. Albertson told that jury he anticipated deliberations to be handed over to them no later than early-to-mid-afternoon on Wednesday. Those deliberations involve an EDA base compensatory damage claim of over $ 11 million against Tran/ITFederal, as well as potential punitive damages up to $300,000 or more were the jury to find Tran and his company guilty of statutory conspiracy to defraud the EDA out of assets obtained under alleged fraudulent circumstances. Testimony indicated the defendants’ counterclaim at a base of approximately $4 million, with more at stake punitively as well.

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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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