What might the mayor of Front Royal and the owner of the New England Patriots have in common? If you said criminal scrutiny involving massage parlors, you would be correct.
Court documents filed online Friday, April 12, 2019 indicate that Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe is poised to be indicted for “solicitation of prostitution” by a Warren County grand jury on Monday, April 15.
The date of the alleged offense – case number CR19-000-290-00 – is May 31, 2018, and involves a visit to a local massage parlor.
Asked about the charge Saturday evening, April 13, Tharpe said, “It’s embarrassing – but it’s a baseless charge.”
Tharpe declined further comment pending conversations with an attorney. However, he said he did not foresee the charge impacting his service as mayor of Front Royal in the immediate future – “I am an elected official,” he pointed out.
When queried about a criminal investigation aimed his way revealed when Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden recused himself on August 30, 2018, from involvement in any potential prosecution of the Front Royal mayor, Tharpe expressed confusion.
“I can’t find anything out – no one has called; no one has threatened to take me to court. If someone would pick up the phone and call me, I could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – but I guess the system doesn’t work that way,” Tharpe lamented of the informational vacuum he was operating in.
“It’s just baffling – I’m absolutely clueless. I don’t do murder; I don’t write bad checks; I haven’t had any dealing with the EDA and Jennifer McDonald – I don’t have any loans with the EDA; I don’t shoplift; and I don’t do, I don’t mess with drugs – we know people who have lost kids to addiction,” Tharpe continued as he tried to fathom the nature of any potential criminal investigation into his behavior.
As of Friday, April 12, Tharpe now knows the nature of the charge against him – a charge he asserts is “baseless”. Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams was appointed by the court to replace Madden on the prosecutorial side were charges filed from the investigation into Front Royal’s mayor.
Suspect arrested and charged for fraudulent use of stolen debit card
On January 14, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department initiated an investigation into fraudulent use of a stolen debit card. The stolen card was used at BB&T, Target and 7-11. Jessica Nicole Shell was identified as the suspect and warrants were obtained for §18.2-192 Credit Card Theft and §18.2-178 Obtain Money by False Pretenses.
On February 10, 2020, Shell was arrested by the Hardy County Sheriff’s Office in West Virginia where she was detained until extradited on February 13, 2020. Ms. Shell was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail and is currently being held without bond. The court date for these offenses are set for February 25, 2020, at 9:00am, in Warren County General District Court.
Anyone with further information in reference to this case is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective L. Waller at 540-636-2208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Front Royal man arrested and charged with larceny at Peebles Department Store
On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, James Lathon, 56, of Front Royal, was arrested and charged with §18.2-95 Grand Larceny, §18.2-96 Petit Larceny 3rd+ offense, and §18.2-103 Concealing or taking possession of merchandise. This is in connection with an ongoing investigation of several larcenies that were reported at the Peebles Department Store located at 425 South Street in Front Royal. The Regional Manager of Peebles made contact with the police department after his employees observed the same individual enter their store on 3-4 different days and walk out with unpaid merchandise.
Mr. Lathon was arrested and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail and is being held without bond. Mr. Lathon was additionally charged with a violation of his probation. The court date for these offenses is set for February 25, 2020, at 10:00am, in Warren County General District Court.
Anyone with any further information in reference to this case is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
Juveniles charged in dumpster fire incident, officials warn of youth fire setting behaviors
On Thursday, January 2, 2020, at 12:57 am, the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services was dispatched to the area of 40 Crescent Street for a reported dumpster fire.
Units arrived on scene to find a garbage dumpster significantly involved in fire. Crews were able to quickly contain the fire, there were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshals Office which determined the fire to be caused by an intentional act.
A joint investigation conducted between the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Front Royal Police Department Criminal Investigations Division determined that the fire resulted from the actions of two juveniles. After consultation with the Warren County Commonwealths Attorney’s Office, petitions have been sought for these two juveniles in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Anyone with further information pertaining to the fire incident is encouraged to contact Fire Investigator Austin Cucciardo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 636-3830, or contact Detective Dave Fogle at email@example.com or 540-636-2208.
This type of incident should serve as a reminder that youth fire-setting behaviors put our community at risk. If a child you care about has played with matches, lighters, fireworks, candles, etc. or has set a fire, or has shown a curiosity of fire that worries you, the Department of Fire and Rescue Services Youth Fire-setter Intervention Program may help. The Youth Fire-setter Intervention Program provides a simple risk assessment for youth to help understand their situation. It also provides fire safety education for the child and other family members. Everything is confidential and intended to help keep your family safe from fire. This is not a punitive program; rather a program to prevent a tragic incident from occurring. The goal is to help families learn about the dangers of fire setting and provide assistance and support to families with fire-setting concerns.
Anyone who feels they have a juvenile that can benefit from participation in this educational program is asked to contact the Department of Fire and Rescue Services Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program at 540-636-3830.
Alford pleas, dropped charges end ‘bawdy house’ saga with no jail time
After about 20 minutes of attorney and attorney-client discussion outside the Warren County General District Courtroom after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. starting time Wednesday afternoon of a motions hearing in the cases against Cynthia Atkinson Bailey and three family members accused of offering prostitution services out of a Front Royal massage parlor, a plea agreement was announced.
Bailey took an Alford plea to two misdemeanor charges, one of prostitution and of operation of a “bawdy (defined as gross, indecent or overly graphic) house” and had the remaining felony charges against her dropped by the Commonwealth. In an Alford plea a defendant pleads guilty without admitting guilt, only that the prosecution may have enough evidence to convict. Felony charges dropped included pandering or making money from prostitution; and cruelty to children, involving a teenage niece answering the phone and scheduling appointments for the Blue Valley Services business.
Noting that Bailey, 55, has no previous criminal record, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Beyrau informed Judge W. Dale Houff that Bailey would be sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500 on each guilty plea, with all jail time and $400 on each count suspended. Bailey will also be on unsupervised probation for 12 months.
A similar agreement was then announced for Bailey’s daughter Brandy Nicole Atkinson, who had a misdemeanor prostitution charge amended to disorderly conduct, also a misdemeanor. She received the same suspended sentence, fine agreement and 12 months of unsupervised probation as her mother.
Bailey’s son Jesse Thomas Atkinson and Brandy Atkinson’s fiancé Joshua Allan Stamper had peripheral charges to the bawdy house operation dropped by the prosecution. It was noted that Stamper was incarcerated on unrelated charges at the time his trio of co-defendants were arrested on May 15, 2019. Defense counsel indicated Stamper, who appeared in court in orange and white striped jail clothes, was still serving a two-year sentence on that unrelated conviction.
Cynthia Bailey and Jesse Atkinson were represented by David Downes; Jonathan Silvester was counsel for Brandy Atkinson and Stamper. Had the plea agreement not been reached, defense attorneys were prepared to argue for exclusion of much of the prosecution’s evidence in the case.
So, with a whimper, not a bang, ends the massage parlor/bawdy house saga that embroiled and led to the resignation of Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe last May; and led to some testy press release exchanges between Bailey attorney Downes and the Winchester Special Prosecutor’s Office and Front Royal Police Chief.
Tharpe was indicted on a solicitation of prostitution charge on April 15, 2019, a month before Cynthia Bailey and her family members’ May 15 arrests. According to an FRPD press release issued on May 16, the arrests were the result of an ongoing investigation that began in late January of 2018.
Tharpe’s April 15, 2019 Grand Jury indictment, ironically signed by Tharpe’s eventual successor as Interim Mayor Matthew Tederick as grand jury foreman, references a May 31, 2018 incident in which Tharpe allegedly offered “money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts … and thereafter did a substantial act in furtherance thereof against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth …”
Queried after his interim mayoral appointment, Tederick called his grand jury role in Tharpe’s situation a coincidence, noting he received the grand jury assignment before the Tharpe case was brought forward.
Cynthia Bailey was initially arrested one week after the referenced Tharpe massage parlor incident, on June 7, 2018 on a charge of prostitution. That charge was dropped by the Commonwealth on October 2, 2018.
Tharpe’s misdemeanor solicitation case was eventually dismissed at the request of Special Prosecutor Heather Hovermale during a July 15, 2019 hearing due to Bailey’s invocation of her Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate due to the related charges hanging over her head.
Prior to that Downes and Hovermale and eventually the Town Police Chief whose officers were involved in the investigation of the Blue Valley Services operation, had engaged in dueling press releases. Downes first expressed the opinion the prosecution against Bailey was retaliatory in nature because of law enforcement’s interest in the then mayor of Front Royal and Bailey’s uncooperative stance regarding that investigation. That led to official denials by the involved prosecutor’s office and law enforcement.
For his part, Tharpe admitted visiting the massage parlor operated by Bailey at 312 Biggs Drive. However, the 67-year-old Tharpe told this reporter he visited Biggs Drive for legitimate massages on his aging and aching body. Tharpe lost a November 2019 special election attempt to regain his mayoral seat in a two-way race with Councilman and former Mayor Eugene Tewalt.
RSW inmate found dead day after checking in to serve DUI sentence
On Friday morning, January 10, Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Jail (RSW Jail) announced the death of an inmate the previous day. William Rodger Wines, 54 of Front Royal, was found unresponsive during a routine security check at 12:39 a.m. Thursday morning. He was pronounced dead at Warren Memorial Hospital less than an hour later.
According to an RSW Press Release, Wines had reported to the jail the previous day, Wednesday January 8, to serve “a delayed confinement/non-consecutive sentence for Driving While Intoxicated, imposed by the Warren County General District Court.”
Wines arrest date on the DUI charge is listed as August 19, 2019 on the jail website. It appears his conviction dates to January 8, the day he reported to the jail. His “Inmate Status” is described as “weekender”.
Of the circumstance of the discovery the press release issued late Friday morning said, “On January 9, 2020, at approximately 12:39 a.m., while conducting security rounds, Mr. Wines was found unresponsive. RSW medical staff was immediately notified, responded to the scene and emergency medical treatment was administered. Warren County 911 Emergency Medical Services were called and responded to the scene. Mr. Wines was transported to the Warren Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:21 a.m.”
RSW staff contacted the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation into Wines death – “Further information will be released later based on the ongoing investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office,” the RSW press release concluded.
McDonald has bad day in civil court – how bad remains to be seen
Former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald remains free on bond.
On Friday afternoon, January 10, former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald was found guilty of civil contempt regarding the movement of a piece of property frozen by the court during earlier EDA civil litigation hearings; and had a default judgment regarding a failure to respond to civil court orders for information on her two real estate companies, go against her as well.
McDonald was fined $375 to cover County-EDA legal costs pursuing the civil contempt judgement, and ordered not to repeat what she and her sister Gail Addison into whose name the frozen real estate parcel was moved, testified was a simple mistake. Those two sanctions were all EDA attorneys were seeking in the way of punishment on the civil contempt ruling.
As for the default judgement for failing to heed court-requested documentation on her two real estate companies, DaBoyz and MoveOn8 named along with her as three of 14 defendants in the amended EDA civil litigation, a date of April 17 was set for attorneys to argue McDonald’s liability on that ruling.
Judge Bruce D. Albertson will hear, not only those civil case arguments on April 17, but further motions arguments from a number of EDA-related criminal case defendants who were in court on the 1 p.m. docket.
On Friday afternoon Judge Albertson also granted the Commonwealth’s request to nolle prossed (drop) all current EDA-related criminal charges against Earth Right Energy principal Donald F. Poe.
Prosecutor Michael Parker restated the reasons cited in his written submission of the previous day, regarding the amount of material recently received concerning the Poe prosecutions and gaps in that material and a lack of time available with Poe’s first criminal trial on a count of perjury slated to begin January 22.
Poe attorney William Ashwell did not object to the prosecution’s request.
“We could jump up and down and say we want (the charges) out altogether now … but functionally this is a great example of the State acting as gatekeeper (of legal processes),” Ashwell told the court.
The amount of material involved in the EDA civil and criminal litigation – cited as approaching a million pages – played into many of the motions arguments heard Friday. Like Special Prosecutor Parker of the Harrisonburg Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office before him, EDA civil counsel Cullen Seltzer told the court that the amount of involved material and documentation was in issue in their respective cases.
Seltzer said the volume of material made it impractical and prohibitive cost-wise to reproduce traditionally in hard copy. He said a data base was being created with portions flagged to different defendants’ names to ease the online search process.
In arguing against the civil contempt charge against his client, McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun, pushed into dual criminal and civil case duties due to McDonald’s financial problems that led her initial civil case attorneys to withdraw, pointed out once the real estate movement mistake was discovered, the sisters’ corrected their mistake.
“When the attorney said, ‘wait, can we do this,’ she did everything to restore the situation without court intervention,” Greenspun told the court.
Greenspun argued that the involvement of local attorney David Crump in the transaction indicated it was, in fact, a mistake rather than an act of contempt of a court order installed by initial EDA Judge Clifford “Clay” Athey Jr.
“This was not done in a parking lot or a jail cell – her conduct was not contemptuous; it was a mistake that was corrected,” Greenspun told the court.
However, EDA co-counsel Lee Byrd pointed to Addison’s own testimony to argue that deceit was a motivation in the transfer. Addison said the move was made so she, a former real estate agent, could market the parcel in her name rather than her sister’s due to “the bad name” McDonald had developed as a result of the EDA litigation.
And while Greenspun pointed out the jailed McDonald was not present for any of the three-day hearing at the end of which Athey froze some McDonald real estate assets, EDA counsel pointed to the courthouse documentation on the court order freezing McDonald assets and scoffed at the idea the experienced real estate agent wouldn’t know how to find out which of her assets had been frozen by the court.
“Their only excuse is ‘I wasn’t aware’ – they can’t say the order didn’t exist,” Byrd told the court.
And it was the plaintiff argument that held sway with the judge.