After over five hours of arguments surrounding five EDA civil case defendants’ motions to overturn jury liability verdicts totaling over $14-million, Judge Bruce D. Albertson took those arguments under advisement Wednesday afternoon, November 30th. Some court officials anticipate rulings at some point in the coming week in the cases of April Petty ($125,000 compensatory judgement liability); William Lambert ($296,555.34 compensatory, punitive, & interest liabilities); Donald “Donnie” Poe ($604,973.12 compensatory, punitive, interest); Truc “Curt” Tran ($1,821,192.01 compensatory, interest); and Samuel “Sammy” North (approximately $893,000 compensatory, punitive, interest, & statutory conspiracy).
In addition to the above personal liabilities, Poe’s EarthRight Energy (ERE) company ($948,646.25 in compensatory, punitive, interest) and Tran’s ITFederal ($10,419,327.38 compensatory) were also handed down by Warren County Circuit Court civil case juries in recent months.
All but North’s trial were heard in July. North’s, also originally scheduled for July, was delayed to October by a later withdrawn bankruptcy filing. This week on the final day of November, attorneys for the defendants echoed arguments sometimes heard at trial during earlier motions for dismissal of cases or claims against their clients due to what defense attorneys asserted both then and now, was a lack of substantive evidence of collusion with EDA financial scandal central figure and former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald. Rather, some defense attorneys claimed their clients were unwitting victims of McDonald’s from various business or personal connections.
Those personal connections include North’s marriage to McDonald; Lambert’s former personal relationship with McDonald’s sister; what attorney William Schmidheiser called Petty’s casual acquaintance McDonald, acting as his client’s real estate agent in the sale of her home. On the business side, Poe’s ERE company was contracted through McDonald to perform various solar energy and energy maintenance projects for the EDA under what plaintiff EDA attorneys contended were false pretenses McDonald presented to her board of directors; and Tran’s ITFederal was recruited through the joint effort of McDonald and then Virginia Sixth District U.S. House Representative Bob Goodlatte to become the first commercial redevelopment client at the former Avtex Superfund site, also with what plaintiff counsel said were false contractual and asset information concerning ITFederal alleged to have been presented to the EDA board.
Several attorneys, most prominently Tran attorney David Jones Jr., also argued that several claims categories should not have applied to their clients at trial. Prominent among those were the “ultra vires” claim of profiting off the actions of an official acting outside the range of their legal authority, and associated claims of “conversion” and “unjust enrichment” being applied to their clients for actions of then EDA Executive Director McDonald. Consequently, Jones for Tran particularly and other defense attorneys argued that some jury instructions submitted were improper, creating an incorrect evidentiary scenario for those juries to deliberate on. So, procedural errors on bench rulings on evidence admissibility or jury instructions were claimed as grounds to overturn jury verdicts.
In Poe and ERE’s case, defense counsel William Ashwell also noted that some of the contracted work had been successfully completed by Poe’s company. He told the court that when payments were made by the EDA board to his client’s company: “The EDA eventually adopts her (McDonald’s) actions by their actions” and consequently his client is not the one who should be held liable for the return of money for work accomplished. Ashwell also sought to overturn any personal liability of Poe for payments made to his company.
In opening his arguments to overturn or limit Tran and ITFederal’s liability, Jones noted that he was “in the somewhat unenviable position of not being the trial attorney – Am I in the position of fresh eyes or of where fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” Jones wondered as he launched what would be an approximate hour of argument on his client’s behalf. During that hour Jones questioned the liability finding on a number of grounds and questioned whether ITFederal was, in fact, in breach of contract as claimed by the EDA in seeking recovery of the balance of the $10-million loan the EDA gave ITFederal for development at the former Avtex site.
Plaintiff counsel Cullen Seltzer and Karissa Kaseorg countered, as they had at trial, that McDonald’s assertions to her board about the source of funding for the ERE energy and electrical work being through grants that would compensate the EDA for its payments to ERE; or alleged government contracts held by Tran’s ITFederal company that were non-existent created the path for those payments, and a $10-million loan in ITFederal’s case, substantiating the juries findings of liability on ultra vires, conversion, and unjust enrichment, among other plaintiff claims.
In response to some of Jones’ arguments for reduction or dismissal of his clients’ liability, Kaseorg told Judge Albertson that the motions to overturn hearings should not be an opportunity for defense counsel to retry the case with a “what we wish we had done” at trial. Of Jones’ argument to dismiss based on the inclusion of the plaintiff’s “conversion” jury instruction, plaintiff counsel noted that the defense had agreed to the conversion jury instruction at trial.
In conclusion plaintiff EDA counsel asserted the judicial decisions from the bench at trial had been proper as to both evidence admissibility and jury instructions, and that those jury verdicts of financial liability based on both sides cases as presented at trial should stand as handed down by those five juries. And now we are awaiting a decision on how the court will rate its own performance at those trials based on the defendants’ challenges and the plaintiff’s counter-arguments in support of the judicial rulings made at trial.
Deputies rescue suspected impaired driver from pond after crash
At approximately 11am today, the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call stating that a SUV had driven off the roadway and into a pond in the area of Papermill Rd. and Harrsion Ln. The caller stated the driver was still in the vehicle and was not moving.
Deputies arriving first on the scene observed the vehicle, partially submerged in the water up to it’s hood, and could see the driver slumped over the wheel. Deputy Jason Hawse and Deputy Nick Dempsey removed their outer vests and gun belts and entered the frigid water to assist the unconscious subject. With outside temps of 27 degrees, and windchill making it feel more like 13 degrees, Hawse and Dempsey worked quickly, in the chest-high water, breaking the windows on the vehicle and pulling the subject out. Once getting the male driver to land, one dose of Narcan was administered and the subject regained consciousness a few moments later.
The driver, identified as Michael Surgent, 35, of Mechanicsville, Va. was immediately attended to by deputies awaiting EMTs to medically evaluate him for exposure. Based on witness statements, and evidence recovered later from the vehicle, it is believed that Surgent was “huffing” chemicals from aerosol cans resulting in his losing consciousness, and proper control of his vehicle. Surgent was taken to Winchester Medical Center and held for further medical evaluations. He has been charged with huffing chemicals, reckless driving and driving under the influence.
All deputies were checked on scene and cleared for duty, once out of their wet uniforms and warmed back up. Sheriff Lenny Millholland is both pleased with, and proud of, the swift and selfless actions taken by his personnel, saying “This could have been much worse and we are thankful that no one was seriously injured in this incident”.
Winchester man facing multiple charges after pursuit
A Winchester man is behind bars on multiple charges after he fled law enforcement Thursday (Jan. 19).
Virginia State Police have charged John P. Scaperotto, 44, in Frederick County, with two felony counts of possession of a schedule I/II drug, one felony count of eluding law enforcement, one felony count of assault on law enforcement, one misdemeanor count of reckless driving, one misdemeanor count of driving on a revoked license, one misdemeanor count of fictitious vehicle registration, one misdemeanor count of operating an uninsured vehicle, and one misdemeanor count of littering.
Scaperotto was also charged with several traffic infractions, including speeding, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to stop at a red light, and failure to wear a seatbelt. He was also wanted out of Frederick County for failure to appear in court.
State Police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 8:10 a.m., as a Chevrolet pick-up truck was traveling south on Route 37 in Frederick County. The violation was for speeding – as the Chevrolet was driving 80 mph in a posted 65 mph zone. The Chevrolet refused to stop, and a pursuit was initiated.
The pursuit continued onto Route 50 and Route 522 before continuing back onto Route 37, where Chevrolet crossed the median and entered the southbound travel lanes traveling north. As the Chevrolet crossed back into the median, it attempted again to go in the wrong direction.
A state trooper struck the Chevrolet with his patrol car in an attempt to stop it from going in the wrong direction. The Chevrolet continued northbound, traveling in the right direction, where it eventually ran off the left side of the roadway into the median and collided with a guardrail. The driver, Scaperotto, was taken into custody and transported to the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center, where he was held without bond.
One trooper suffered minor injuries during the course of the pursuit.
The pursuit reached speeds of up to 100 mph.
Traffic stop by WCSO results in drug arrests and significant property seizure
On January 5, 2023, at 08:18 PM, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Deputy T. Poe conducted a traffic stop on a white 1999 Mercury passenger vehicle at the intersection of Winchester Road and Riverton Road. The vehicle was stopped for making an illegal left turn from Strasburg Road onto Route 522.
A subsequent search of the vehicle and its occupants revealed a bag containing approximately 22 grams of white powdery substance purported to be crack cocaine, nine small rocks of suspected cocaine, several drug paraphernalia, smoking devices, and $16,398 in United States Currency.
The vehicle, currency, and drugs were seized pursuant to the arrests of the occupants. The driver, Arthur L. Summers (age 62) of Front Royal, and his passenger Melissa P. Myers (age 58) of Arlington, Virginia, were arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver (PWID) crack cocaine (§18.2-248 of Code of Virginia) and possession of drug paraphernalia (§18.2-251).
Baltimore, MD resident arrested after investigation by the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force
The Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force has concluded a two-month-long investigation with the arrest of a Baltimore, MD, resident.
The investigation led the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force officers to Prince William County, where they arrested Reginald L. Morgan, 56, on Friday (Jan. 13, 2023). He was taken into custody without incident in the 14400 block of Lee Highway in Gainesville. At the time of his arrest, Morgan had 2.5 ounces of powder cocaine and 4.5 ounces of crack cocaine in his possession. The drugs seized have an estimated street value of $17,500.
Throughout the investigation, Morgan had been identified as a significant supplier of cocaine to the Culpeper area.
Morgan was charged with one felony count of distribution of Schedule I/II drug (3rd or subsequent offense) and one felony count of transporting Schedule I/II drug into the Commonwealth with the intent to sell or distribute. Morgan was transported to the Prince William County Adult Detention Center, where he was held without bond.
The Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force comprises law enforcement personnel from the Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Madison, and Rappahannock Sheriff’s Offices, Culpeper, Warrenton, Orange Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office charge local business owner with possession of child pornography
The owner/operator of the Winchester Skating and Family Fun Center, located at 1629 Berryville Pike in Winchester, was arrested on January 13th on two counts of possession of child pornography and Driving Under the Influence.
Multiple allegations of taking indecent liberties with a minor were made against Edgar Jackson by several former female employees of the business.
The victims, all juveniles at the time of the alleged offenses, are adults and came forward wishing to have the matter looked into. The Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the sheriff’s office interviewed the victims and, based on the information obtained, executed a search warrant at the business on January 10th.
Items of evidentiary value were seized, including electronic devices that were forensically examined and found to contain photographs of child pornography. Based on these initial findings, investigators obtained two warrants for possession of child pornography and placed a lookout for Jackson for arrest.
Friday afternoon, Jackson was located by sheriff’s office deputies behind the wheel of a Chrysler 300 passenger car on Martinsburg Pike (Route 11 North) at the I-81 interchange, where a traffic stop was executed. Jackson was transporting a 16-year-old male at the time and was found to have a blood alcohol content above the .08 legal limit. Jackson was arrested for DUI and transported to the regional adult detention center on that violation and for service of the two outstanding warrants. At the time of this release, Jackson was being held without bond.
Preliminary investigations indicate these offenses and allegations have been limited to juvenile employees of the business, and future charges are pending. Anyone with additional information pertaining to this ongoing investigation is requested to contact Frederick County Sheriff’s Office CID at 540-504-6577.
Bristol man sentenced to 20 years in prison for meth and firearms convictions
A Bristol, Virginia man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for possessing with the intent to distribute crystal ice methamphetamine and for illegal possession of a firearm.
William Everett Himes, 38, was convicted after pleading guilty in June 2021 to one count of possessing with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crystal ice methamphetamine and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to court documents, the charges stem from a Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office traffic stop in January 2020, where Himes fled from police and was later found to be in possession of crystal ice methamphetamine. A loaded .45 caliber firearm and more crystal ice methamphetamine were recovered from the front passenger seat of Himes’ vehicle. During Himes’ arrest, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to prior felony drug and violent crime convictions, including two 2012 felony convictions in Bristol, Virginia, related to methamphetamine.
United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, and Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Washington Division, made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Special Assistant United States Attorney M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen, a Virginia Senior Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Attorney General’s Major Crimes and Emerging Threats Section, prosecuted the case for the United States.