Two days after the 2018 mid-term elections, on Thursday, November 8, local Democrats and independents, many tied to the weekly Vigil for Democracy demonstrations in Front Royal against the actions and agenda of President Donald J. Trump, joined people nationwide in demonstrations in support of the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Front Royal was one of over 900 localities where demonstrations dubbed “Nobody is Above the Law – Mueller Protection Rapid Response” formed at 5 p.m. local times across the nation. Here Vigil for Democracy organizer Len Sherp, who has led weekly gatherings in protest of President Trump’s agenda since March 2017, led 25 people and Rusty the dog in a march from the Front Royal Town Gazebo to the South Royal Avenue side of the Warren County Courthouse.
While not permitted on such short notice, Sherp said he had informed town police of the planned demonstration and was told it could proceed as long as public right of ways were not blocked and normal foot or vehicular traffic was not interrupted.
“Hands off the Mueller probe, Trump is not above the law” local demonstrators chanted as they marched with American flags and signs expressing support of the Mueller investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The group stopped in the shadow of the seat of justice in Front Royal and Warren County to repeat the chant for about 10 minutes to passing motorists on Royal Avenue before marching back down East Main Street to their Town Gazebo staging area. As they had walking westbound and during their stop at the courthouse, they again repeated the “Hands off the Mueller probe” manta eastbound through Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.
We asked Sherp why the demonstrations under the auspices of MoveOn.org were called so soon after Trump forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions the day after the 2018 mid-term elections.
“We’re here because once again the president has demonstrated he has absolutely no fealty to the law, good government, and doesn’t care about anything except himself,” Sherp replied, adding, “The dismissal of Jeff Session within 24 hours of the results of the election, followed by the appointment of Matthew Whitaker who is completely unqualified for the job – not to mention is a partisan Trump loyalist who’s on record having dispute with some directions of the Mueller investigation; not to mention he laid out a blueprint on CNN on how to suffocate the Mueller investigation.”
The Whitaker blueprint Sherp mentioned was a Justice Department defunding of the Mueller probe.
Sherp said he sees three basic motivations for a long-anticipated Trump move against the attorney general, opening a path against the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling on his behalf during the 2016 campaign.
One is to eliminate the Mueller investigation before a Democratic majority is seated in the U.S. House of Representatives on or about January 6, 2019, with powers to subpoena Trump records and tax returns. Second is to distract from the result of the Tuesday mid-terms which Sherp described as “a repudiation of him as president”. And finally and most pointedly Sherp said, that after a pre-election hold on special counsel investigation actions, a new round of indictments is anticipated – potentially including Trump’s eldest son Donald Junior.
Vanity Fair magazine and The Daily Mail have reported that Donald Trump Jr. has told friends he fears he may soon be indicted for perjury connected to the Trump Tower campaign meeting with Russians. While Trump Junior’s attorney denies his client has made such statements, Vanity Fair has also reported that the president is “very depressed” about the prospect of his eldest son facing indictment for actions related to his campaign.
That depression, Sherp pointed out, could relate to the fact some sources have indicated that the president himself led discussion developing a “Russian adoptions” cover story for his son about the Trump Tower meeting overseen by Donald Junior. The adoptions cover story was allegedly developed during an Air Force One flight back from a European trip. Trump had been overseas when Donald Junior released emails related to setting up the Trump Tower meeting just before The New York Times was poised to release them.
The pre-Trump Tower communications indicated that Donald Junior initially believed information provided by a Russian attorney at the meeting would “incriminate Hillary” to which he replied enthusiastically “if it’s what you say I love it.”
The investigation thus far
Mueller is a former federal prosecutor and was FBI director under two presidents, George W. Bush who appointed him to a 10-year term, and Barack Obama who asked him to stay on until he appointed Comey in 2013.
Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel for the Russian election interference probe by Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein in May 2017. Upon his appointment as special prosecutor, Mueller was lauded from both sides of the political aisle as a man of unblemished integrity. Mueller has also been described as a lifelong Republican.
Mueller’s current appointment came amidst heavy pressure from both sides of the political aisle in the wake of the president’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey. Comey had been overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russian efforts to impact the result of the 2016 presidential election in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Comey has stated that prior to his firing, the president asked for an oath of personal loyalty and that the FBI director back off any investigation of his then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn is one of six former Trump aides or appointees who have since pled guilty or been convicted on charges related to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian electoral interference. Thus far Mueller’s investigation has resulted in 35 indictments, 32 against people, 26 of those Russian nationals, including 12 Russian GRU intelligence operatives, as well as 3 Russian companies.
In addition to Flynn (guilty plea), among those convicted or pleading guilty to charges stemming from the special prosecutor’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election include one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (convicted and guilty plea); Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos (guilty plea); Trump campaign aide Rick Gates (guilty plea); Republican operative and lobbyist Sam Patten (guilty plea); and Trump’s long-time personal attorney and so-called “fixer” Michael Cohen (guilty plea).
Most of those entering into plea arrangements with prosecutors are believed to have agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team regarding their knowledge of activities surrounding Russian contacts or information transfers designed to aid the Trump presidential campaign.
‘Big Victory’ or Real Problems?
While the president has publicly claimed a “Big Victory” and “Tremendous success” in the November 6 mid-term election, gains made nationwide by Democrats, particularly in gaining a decisive U.S. House of Representatives majority initially standing at 223-205 with estimates the Democratic majority could rise to as much as 230 seats, spells trouble for the president.
As Sherp noted, it is the U.S. House of Representatives majority party that controls committees with subpoena, not to mention impeachment, powers over the president. And Sherp is far from alone in seeing Trump’s “the day after” forced resignation of Attorney General Sessions and appointment of his avid loyalist Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General as the first step in a presidential effort to kill the Mueller investigation.
After Sessions recused himself from matters related to the Russia probe due to conflicts of interest involving his work for the Trump campaign and his own personal meetings with Russian officials in that capacity, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein inherited creation of and oversight of Mueller’s investigation.
Trump has repeatedly berated Sessions for his recusal, something legal experts say he had no choice but to do. The president’s ire has focused on his top administration law enforcement appointee taking himself out of a position to shield the president from potential legal consequences of the Russian investigation.
Acting Attorney General Whitaker appeared to audition for a job at the Trump Justice Department with television appearances and op-eds during which he termed the special prosecutor’s investigation a “witch hunt” and something that needed to be brought to a halt or defunded to the point it could no longer function. Whittaker also expressed a belief that broadening the Mueller investigation into the president’s personal or business finances would be “a violation” of the special prosecutor’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Now Trump has placed Whitaker in a position to act on those stated beliefs. A question for many is if Whitaker does act to kill or stymie the Mueller investigation will he simply be putting a period on a potential obstruction of justice charge against both himself and the president.
But with administration dominoes being put in place to move against Mueller, citizens across the country are not waiting for the hammer to drop. Like Len Sherp and 25 companions here, they are taking to the streets nationwide to show they will not take interference in or obstruction of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe lightly.
Last call to share library feedback and win!
Samuels Public Library’s community survey will close on December 31st. The survey opened on September 1st and has drawn in nearly 300 responses so far. The Library hopes to receive 400 responses.
“We are very excited about the number of responses we’ve received so far,” says Executive Director Michelle Ross, “Our community has wonderful ideas about new library services and we hope to gather even more of those ideas before the survey closes.”
Each person who completes a survey may be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire HD 10 Tablet. Limit one entry per person. Every Warren County citizen is invited to share their feedback to enhance our community’s Library.
Print copies of the survey can be found at each Samuels Library public service desk. The survey can also be completed online.
Results from the survey will be shared on the Library website, www.samuelslibrary.net.
About Samuels Public Library
Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, the library annually serves 200,000 visitors, checks out nearly 400,000 books, electronic and digital services, and provides essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit www.samuelslibrary.net or call (540) 635-3153.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Canada Goose
Clean up your fishing line!
This Canada Goose was found and rescued in Sherando Park in Stephens City, VA. The finder came across this bird struggling in the water while entangled in fishing line. Luckily, the goose was untangled and transported to the Center for care.
We see many cases each year of animals (mostly waterbirds) entangled in fishing line. Please help our wildlife and make every effort to retrieve lost hooks/sinkers/line while fishing, and even if you aren’t the person who left it, remove line and other dangerous debris that you find while out enjoying nature.
This goose did not suffer any fractures, but has muscle damage that will take at least a few days to resolve if all goes well.
The struggle and near drowning experience puts this goose at extreme risk of exertional myopathy (muscle damage caused by extreme stress and struggling that creates physiological imbalances and can result in death). We are doing everything possible to monitor for signs of this condition and address changes quickly.
We are glad to be able to help this bird, but many aren’t so lucky. The best prevention is to clean up the dangerous trash we put out in nature. Please dispose of hooks and line properly!
This goose is our 3,237 patient in 2021!
Our patients can’t pay for their care and we don’t receive state or Federal funding for what we do. We rely on your donations to help wild animals and return them to their wild homes. Please consider donating to BRWC today.
Children honor memory of local librarian
The children collected some of their favorite books and donated them to the library. The books will be used as prizes for the children’s reading club. They are hopeful that the books will help cultivate the love of reading, just as Kathy did through her work. Kathy Jacob worked with many teachers, staff, and children from Mountain Laurel, whenever they visited the library.
‘Tis the Season for Kindness
A local singer/songwriter has a message for the world in his debut release starting with the opening lyrics, “Put the kind back in humankind”. “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” was written by local musician and businessman Shae Parker and recorded in Memphis, TN earlier this year. Parker, who has been playing music semi-professionally for the past three decades is no stranger to helping convey messages. The sign maker and owner of Hanna Sign Company also spent years as a radio broadcaster and as a Front Royal Town Councilman and Vice Mayor.
“I’ve always written songs”, says Parker. “In retrospect, I’ve always helped to convey messages. Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a sign for someone’s business, or as a public servant I’ve always tried to help others convey their message.”
Like many during the pandemic, Parker says he did some soul searching and decided he needed to put his own message out in song. After combing through years of writings and narrowing down a list of about two dozen, he formulated a plan to record as many songs as possible. Shae says he reached out to a childhood friend and fellow former disc jockey, Till Palmer who is the Chief Engineer at Ecko Records in Memphis for help.
“Initially the plan was to take the band with me (River Driven Band), but schedules didn’t align and I realized I either needed to reschedule or refocus on a solo project”, said Parker. “A big part of my pandemic soul searching revolved around doing this before I turned 50, so I headed to Memphis for a solo project”.
Fourteen songs were recorded in Memphis over three days according to Parker, with twelve of those planned for release. Most of the overdubs were handled by Shae before leaving, but he says over the coming months the remaining overdubs will be completed by him and his bandmates from the River Driven Band before being sent back to Palmer for mastering. The other two tracks, “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” were independently released in November by Parker on most digital streaming platforms.
“SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” has a message that I felt all humans needed to hear”, explains Parker. “It’s about kindness and how easy it is to just be kind, that’s why I had to put it out first”.
Shae says that independently releasing his music has its own challenges. He says it has been a learning curve from researching and finding a digital distributor to upload the songs to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music among others, to registering songwriting credits with BMI and SESAC.
“There is a reason it’s called the Music Business”, quips Parker. “What is an ISRC number or a DDP? Things like that I didn’t have a clue about as a performer, but Till being in the industry gave me a lot of insight of what needed to be done to make this a reality.”
While Parker maintains the music is the best thing to come out of the experience, he is quick to point out the joy of working with a lifelong friend and using a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior on some tracks that were bought new by Palmer’s grandfather, Ralph Palmer in 1956. He also finds irony in his and Palmer’s past on radio given that a fellow DJ, Rick Dee’s recorded his number one hit “DISCO DUCK” in the same studio in the 1970s. Parker also recounts that his nickname at 4H camp growing up (where he and Palmer first met) was Duckie. Irony indeed, however despite a good beat you can dance to any other similarities in the compositions end there as Parker’s message of kindness prevails.
The Daily Planet/Shoe Productions studio was built by STAX Records founder Jim Stewart and Bobby Manuel (Booker T & the MG’s) shortly after the shuttering of STAX in 1975. In 1995 John Ward bought the studio and changed the name to Ecko Studios/Records, an American Blues and Soul Blues label that has released albums by Rufus Thomas, Ollie Nightingale, Bill Coday, Barbara Carr, and others.
Shae Parker’s first two releases “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” are available on all streaming platforms or wherever you listen to music. Links to the songs and information on booking can be found on his website at www.SongsByShae.com.
Triple your impact this Giving Tuesday
Today is Giving Tuesday!
What is Giving Tuesday? It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and was created to encourage people, after spending money on physical items for the holidays, to give back to charities and their local communities.
It’s an important day to support Blue Ridge Wildlife Center because your donation could be matched twice!
- Starting at 8am, donations made through Facebook will be matched with an $8 million dollar match pledged by the social media platform itself until the matching funds are exhausted.
- Your donation will ALSO be matched by our generous Board of Directors up to $15,000! (You can donate through our website, by check, or through Facebook to qualify for this match.)
That gives your donation the opportunity to be TRIPLED, going further than any other time!
We receive no state nor Federal funding for what we do. We rely on your donations to save wild animals and return them to the wild. Donations enable us to afford the foods and specialty formulas we feed out to our 3,200+ patients each year. They allow us to build and maintain our enclosures to house these patients and keep the lights on and water running. They pay for the surgical supplies, medications, and anesthetics needed for the 150+ surgeries we perform each year. They pay for the antibiotics and pain medications needed by the >60% of our patients that are suffering from some sort of human-caused traumatic injury.
We need YOUR help to maximize matching funds and to care for the ever-increasing number of patients we’re seeing each year. Please give generously on Giving Tuesday to let your donation go further!
Thank you for supporting our native wildlife!
Accused Brinklow murderer gets 30-years-9-months on plea agreement and probation violation charges
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.
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 Good’s 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.
The Commonwealth noted that in his earlier attack on the ex-girlfriend, Crouch had not only choked her but cut off a large portion of her hair. When Good led authorities to Brinklow’s decomposed body, a bone in the neck was discovered broken at autopsy indicative of strangulation, and a large portion of Brinklow’s hair was discovered cut off. Those aspects of the earlier Crouch attack on the ex-girlfriend were not known to Good, the prosecution told the court.
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 freezer 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.”
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.