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McDonald bankruptcy filing removes her from EDA civil suit – July 2022 dates set for remaining civil defendants’ trial



The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority civil litigation now seeking about $26 million in asset recovery against 24 defendants including its former executive director was dealt a harsh blow the day before scheduled motions hearings Friday morning, September 25. That blow was a notice of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing Thursday afternoon, September 24.

As noted in the filing and as discussed in Warren County Circuit Courtroom “A” Friday, the bankruptcy filing essentially removes McDonald from the civil litigation process. McDonald’s bankruptcy filing included one of her two real estate companies, MoveOn8 LLC.

“As a result of the institution of the bankruptcy proceeding, all actions to collect a debt from Jennifer McDonald, or to recover property from the bankruptcy estate of Jennifer McDonald, have been stayed by reason of the applicability of Section 362(a) of the United States Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. 362(A)),” McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun wrote in the filing received in the Warren County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office Thursday afternoon. The same holds true as to a stay on asset recovery in the MoveOn8 LLC filing.

Jennifer McDonald’s Thursday bankruptcy filing has essentially STOPPED her involvement in the $26-million EDA civil litigation swirling around her alleged embezzlements. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

With EDA lead attorney Cullen Seltzer acknowledging the stay on civil action against McDonald involving her now bankruptcy-trustee seized assets, a scheduled 9 a.m. motions hearing seeking financial sanctions against her for attempting to move a piece of property frozen by the court near the outset of the April 2019 EDA civil litigation filing was removed from the docket. Judge Bruce D. Albertson adjourned the 9 a.m. proceedings 10 minutes after they began.

Motions hearings on the remaining defendants’ cases commenced shortly after 10 a.m. as scheduled. Two defense attorneys connected by remote audio hookup told the court they were likely to file similar “interlocutory appeals” motions to the one April Petty and Jesse Poe attorney William Shmidheiser informed the court in person he would be filing. Those petitions will seek to have defendants removed from the single “mass trial” the plaintiff is seeking in alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy of McDonald and associates to profit from the alleged McDonald-directed embezzlements and misdirection of EDA assets.

Before making his case that his clients should be removed from the single trial of all defendants, as the 10 a.m. hearing began Shmidheiser called McDonald’s bankruptcy “the elephant in the room” that should be discussed with all involved defense attorneys linked in. That led EDA attorney Seltzer to repeat his acknowledgment that the case against primary defendant McDonald was stayed from further action due to the bankruptcy process.

Several times during subsequent discussion McDonald was referred to as “the hub” of the conspiracy “wheel” the plaintiff is alleging existed between the former EDA executive director and those believed to have benefitted financially one way or another from her alleged misdirection and embezzlement of EDA assets.

While criminal charges related to the EDA civil suit have been dropped against McDonald and others due to speedy trial statute concerns, the threat of refiling remains, leading to possible invocation of 5th Amendment rights if called to testify or be deposed in other defendants’ cases.

Former EDA and McDonald Administrative Assistant Michelle Henry’s attorney John Cook told the court the McDonald bankruptcy filing made his client’s case problematic, in that Henry has filed to force McDonald to pay for her legal fees in the civil case.

Also on the table Friday was McDonald’s ability or willingness to testify as a witness as the civil cases proceed in the wake of her bankruptcy filing. That she could be deposed as a witness in other cases seemed agreed upon. But whether she would quickly choose to invoke her 5th Amendment right not to self-incriminate, with the refiling of criminal charges also still a possibility, remained at issue.

Judge Albertson took defense counsel concerns about the bankruptcy filing’s impact on the other defendant’s cases under advisement, observing, “I think we can proceed with (setting) dates in the event I rule the stay is not warranted.”

EDA attorney Seltzer noted the large number of witnesses to be deposed, over 50 he acknowledged; as well as the limited days per month, three, available for those depositions, depositions he predicted would at a minimum take a full day due to the number of defendants and their counsel involved. Due to those factors, coupled with lingering pandemic limitations on court processes, Seltzer raised an eyebrow or two predicting the civil trial wouldn’t happen before July of 2022.

That prediction led to an added sense of urgency by Petty and Jesse Poe’s attorney. Responding to a question, Shmidheiser told the court he probably would file his interlocutory appeal by the end of the week, as he sought a November date for a hearing on the appeal. Judge Albertson set November 23, at 3:30 p.m., for what is anticipated to be a 30 to 40 minute or so hearing.

Shmidheiser also told Judge Albertson that one of his primary hopes for the day’s hearing was that specific dates would be set for the lengthy deposition process of witnesses, as opposed to the vague “three days a month” tag currently on the table. Agreeing that pinning down dates for depositions was a preferred course of action, Albertson set about finding dates all attorneys could be available for.

Due to varying attorney’s schedules, preferences and other court variables, Tuesdays-Wednesdays-and-Thursdays were set between January and May 2021 to get the deposition ball rolling. Deposition dates agreed to were January 13-14-15; February 16-17-18; March 30, 31, April 1; and May 11-12-13.

Acknowledging the process would likely continue through the remainder of the year, Albertson set a pre-trial motions date of February 19, with a 24-day trial scheduled 4-1/2 months later from July 5 to 29, 2022.

Some of us may need an ambulance to get to the EDA civil trial now scheduled for 24 days in July of 2022.

Seltzer did acknowledge it was possible some defendants’ motions to be removed to individual trials could be successful, leading to earlier trials for those defendants.

As for the bankruptcy situation, one attorney present familiar with bankruptcy cases, later explained to the media that the EDA could file to have certain McDonald assets separated from the bankruptcy sale process to accommodate creditors, citing her alleged embezzlements. However, without a conviction in support of those allegations that filing might be hard to get approved by a bankruptcy trustee, Shmidheiser said. He added that the bankruptcy transfers McDonald’s liability from the EDA civil case now in Warren County Circuit Court to a judge-overseen trial in a Harrisonburg U.S. Western District of Virginia Bankruptcy Court.

According to the McDonald Bankruptcy Docket posted by the U.S. Western District of Virginia Court:

The First Meeting of Creditors is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, November 13, 2020 (by telephone);

Deadline for filing Proofs of Claims has not yet been set, because McDonald filed her case as a “No Asset Case”;

Deadline for filing Complaints for Exception to Bankruptcy Discharge is Tuesday, January 12, 2021. The Warren EDA will have to file a Complaint for Exception to Discharge case by the deadline, or its claim will be discharged in bankruptcy, we were told;

McDonald ‘s Bankruptcy Schedules are due to be filed by October 8, 2020 – but if time extensions are requested, they are generally liberally granted.

The Trustee is listed as Bob Stevens of Charlottesville, along with the Office of the U.S. Trustee, with a Roanoke address.

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UPDATE 2: ‘Unexpected Circumstance’ Delays McDonald Federal Criminal Trial for rest of week



(Writer’s Update: On Wednesday, Sept. 20, for the second consecutive day the federal criminal trial of former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald was cancelled. This time there was no hearing to discuss reasons or other procedural matters as there was the previous day. One might guess the cause was a continuation of the “unexpected health issue” or “unexpected circumstance” mentioned at hearing the previous day, as reported below. Further information will be reported as it becomes available. And in a later update, the trial has been cancelled for the rest of the week. It is scheduled to resume Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 a.m.)

With 10th Western District of Virginia Federal Court Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon’s 9:30 a.m. arrival, court was convened on schedule Tuesday, September 19, in the criminal trial of Jennifer McDonald related to the estimated $26-million Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” circa 2014 to 2018. As has been reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors offices on August 25, 2021, a federal grand jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments on a variety of charges, including bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft against the former EDA executive director. Those charges relate to the alleged unauthorized transfer of EDA assets to McDonald’s own personal benefit, as well as that of alleged co-conspirators.

But rather than starting the trial on the second day of a week in which it has been forecast the trial could be coming to a fairly rapid conclusion with closing arguments by weeks end, the judge was informed that an unanticipated issue would put the trial on hold that day.

An “unexpected health issue” was referenced by lead prosecutor Sean Welsh as the reason for what apparently will be a one-day delay of the trial. However, defense counsel told the judge that the jury had been told an “unexpected circumstance” would be the reason they would not be needed at court that day. It might be noted that the lone missing person at the prosecution or defense tables during this discussion appeared to be defendant Jennifer McDonald.

In the defendant and jury’s absence several procedural matters were broached for additional discussion. One was review of submitted jury instructions. Another was gaining defense approval of allowing a prosecution witness’s testimony that had been scheduled to be heard Tuesday, to be submitted alternately without the need of her returning the following day from her Virginia Beach home to testify. It was explained her testimony would be fairly brief and was to be introduced to allow a related piece of evidence to be admitted as a prosecution exhibit (why does that sound familiar?). A final matter discussed before court recessed was the possible addition of a third defense witness identified as “James Woods”.

Following the court recess this reporter and another present (see you tomorrow, Alex?) tried to place the name James Woods. All we could come up with was the actor. — Wouldn’t want to miss THAT testimony, “Woods” we?

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A Day in the Federal Criminal Prosecution of Jennifer McDonald



After an unexpected near-testimony adventure to Harrisonburg Federal Court the previous day — “We need you here now!” — on Wednesday, September 13, your humble reporter was called to testify in the third week of the federal criminal prosecution of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Town-County EDA (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft in what has been estimated as a $26-million unauthorized movement and use of EDA assets to the personal benefit of her and alleged co-conspirators.

Actually, it was the fourth week since the trial’s August 21st start. However, the post-Labor Day holiday week of September 5th to 8th was lost to a COVID outbreak among unnamed involved parties. The trial was initially forecast to take six weeks to complete. It might be noted that on September 13, McDonald was the only person with a COVID mask on at the defense table. And no one that I saw on the prosecution side or among the 15 jurors and alternates present wore a mask. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon began the day mask-less, however, after a witness appeared wearing a mask who explained she had recently had COVID, the judge opted for a mask the rest of the day despite two court clerks spraying the witness stand next to the Judge’s seat down with disinfectant following that witnesses’ testimony — better safe than sorry.

As instructed, this witness, thanks to navigator/tag-team driver Paula’s assistance, arrived by 8 a.m. at the Harrisonburg federal court building for the scheduled 8:30 a.m. trial start that day. We then made our way to the third-floor courtroom area, where we settled in hallway seats with other scheduled witnesses as motions arguments were already being heard inside the courtroom.

The 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse in Harrisonburg is where the criminal trial of former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald is being held. Due to ‘complexity’ issues revolving around its over a million pages of documentary evidence, as well as recusal issues in WC, it has passed through 2 state prosecutors offices in Warren and Rockingham Counties before landing on the federal court’s doorstep. A federal grand jury returned 34 criminal indictments against McDonald on August 25, 2021. Photo 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse website

Those motion discussions apparently included a third denial by Judge Dillon of the defense’s attempt to have this witness’s testimony excluded from the trial. That most recent motion was made the previous afternoon as this witness traveled south after being called around 2:45 p.m. by the prosecution’s victim-witness coordinator and told the trial was moving faster than expected and I would be needed to testify prior to adjournment on Tuesday, September 12.

Information garnered from some present through some of those motions filings was that the defense was trying to exclude evidence related to McDonald’s gambling excursions to Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino over a number of years paralleling her alleged misdirection of EDA assets to her own use and benefit. At any rate, the combination of that defense motion and an accident on I-81 southbound a bit north of Harrisonburg that blocked all lanes, leading to a ponderously slow detour on Route 11 around the wreck, led to no testimony from this witness the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12.

During a pre-trial meeting with lead prosecutor Sean Welsh, this witness was informed he would be questioned about his interview (late January 2018) with McDonald and subsequent Royal Examiner article published February 8, 2018, during which the EDA executive director claimed to have won a total of $1.8-million over a three-year period playing the slot machines at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. McDonald asserted it was this cash flow that allowed her to make some high-dollar residential real estate investments through her Da Boyz Real Estate LLC, among other purchases and financial assistance to some family members. It should be noted that as an EDA director, she was not allowed to invest in commercial real estate transactions. See “EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments”

Under direct examination by Welsh, this witness verified the content of the above-linked story and the circumstance of it coming about, along with other details. Those details included recollection of what information was on what McDonald told me were tax receipts issued with her winnings, which she is holding up in a photo accompanying the article.

Photo accompanying this reporter’s Feb. 8, 2018, Royal Examiner story on Jennifer McDonald’s claim of winning $1.8 million in 3 years of slot machine playing at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino, which she said she turned into real estate investments and other personal family expenditures. Royal Examiner File Photos Roger Bianchini

That recollection was that while containing the ID of Hollywood Casino and a variety of numbers, that I could not verify them as or as not the winning tax receipts McDonald asserted them to be. Asked by the prosecution how my professional relationship with McDonald had been leading up to that interview and story, I responded that it had generally been cordial and helpful, dating to her time as an assistant to past EDA Executive Directors Stephen Heavener and Paul Carroll prior to her succeeding them around 2008. I also testified that despite a shared personal skepticism (with my then-Royal Examiner colleague and editor Norma Jean Shaw) about the huge gambling winnings aspect of the story, we decided to publish it as presented and see how it played to the public, including involved parties at the EDA and town and county governments.

And without even a nod “goodbye” from the defense side of the room, I guess because they didn’t want me to testify in the first place, I was released as a witness, meaning at last, I would be able to observe the trial as it progressed from this point forward as my work schedule permitted me to go to Harrisonburg.

And it proved to be an interesting balance of the day in court. Subsequent witnesses called by the prosecution included, in order of appearance following my testimony, Larry Tuttle Sr., the cousin of McDonald’s step-father George Hassenplug; Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr.; McDonald’s aunt Jeanette Campbell, a broker with Campbell Realty/Century 21; Hollywood Casino Risk-Compliance Director Laura Gatto; and Virginia State Police Investigator Brad Gregor. I will begin my description of the testimony of these witnesses with Hollywood Casino’s Laura Gatto, as it relates most directly to my above-referenced testimony.

On direct examination, Gatto explained “player records” kept through what she termed “player cards” with which the casino tracks the gambling efforts, wins and losses, including money in/money out on slot machines. She also noted the casino would not pay out jackpots — wins over $1200 — if someone is using another person’s player card. And while on cross-examination defense counsel would attempt to demean the accuracy of these tracking systems, Gatto responded by noting that while not given to be used by casino players to report their tax payments and debt, the casino itself uses these records as a tool to build its business model and in recording its tax responsibilities.

Back on direct examination, Gatto said that McDonald reached the level of “Icon Player” on the slots. And if I got the numbers right, and they were big ones, Gatto stated that Hollywood Casino’s player records indicated that in the period from 2014 to 2018 on the house slot machines, Jennifer McDonald cashed out $17,059,450.25 while cashing in $21,778,337.46. That is over a $4.7 million deficit of playing versus winning, $4,718,887.21, to be exact. And if I am interpreting these numbers correctly, it would seem to indicate that while there may have been points where McDonald was on the plus side, perhaps even significantly, it would seem unlikely that she would have been plus $1.8 million in late January 2018. That is because to come out $4.7 million on the downside at the end of 2018, she would have had to hit an 11-month losing streak totaling over $6.5 million. Now, I’m a word guy, not a numbers guy, but even I can see that’s an exceptionally bad slide, especially for an “Icon Player.” But I guess there’s a reason they call them “one-armed bandits.”

I will note here that three of the other four prosecution witnesses I saw testify, Larry Tuttle Sr., McDonald’s stepfather’s cousin; Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr.; and McDonald’s aunt, Campbell Realty broker Jeanette Campbell, testified as to their knowledge or lack thereof, and participation in real estate transactions, particularly one on Buck Mountain Road (see more below), related to the alleged misdirection of EDA assets to the defendant’s personal use or benefit. I hope to recount more of that testimony, as time and unfolding trial events allow, in a future story.

State Police interview into evidence

Following a lunch break, VSP Investigator Brad Gregor was called to the stand to comment on a two-hour videotaped interview he did with McDonald on December 19, 2018, the day before she resigned by email as the EDA Board of Directors met in Closed/Executive Session to discuss her future with the EDA. That video was introduced as Prosecution Exhibit 531-A, with its transcript introduced as Exhibit 532 (that is a lot of exhibits, and who knows how many pages each exhibit may be). During Gregor’s testimony, amidst the prosecution’s playing of the video of the interview, it was noted that McDonald had requested a meeting with the State Police in response to some allegations about her financial activities being circulated through social media and elsewhere. Kristie Atwood’s name was mentioned during Gregor’s testimony.

The FBI and VSP, in April 2019, during a search for potential evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the EDA Kendrick Ln. office, including Jennifer McDonald’s former office, which had been sealed off as a potential crime scene with her seized and locked down work computer since her Dec. 20, 2018, resignation under investigative pressure.

What McDonald didn’t know at the time was that in response to that same information being in the public domain, as well as Virginia State Police hands, VSP had launched an investigation into her financial affairs. And it was Gregor, a white-collar crime expert of 10 years with VSP after retiring from 29 years with the FBI, who was assigned to head that VSP investigation. Particularly through opening portions of the interview, one can see Gregor leading McDonald into explanations of her financial role and authority at the EDA versus her targeted discussion of why she thought she was being scapegoated by her board and others for what she asserted were group decisions on financial transactions that suddenly her board of directors had “forgotten” they had authorized.

The issue of two EDA signatures, including a board representative’s along with hers, being required procedurally by the EDA on financial transactions was referenced by McDonald in the video interview with Gregor. That dual signature defense claim has led to prosecutorial counterclaims of forged signatures, including during early hearings when the case was still at the state level. The federal indictment on aggravated identity theft would indicate that it would be re-raised at this trial in at least one situation, believed to be a claim by ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran regarding his signature appearing in one of McDonald’s real estate transactions. I believe it likely that would be the one involving all three witnesses heard earlier on September 13, Larry Tuttle Sr., Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr., and Jeanette Campbell, regarding the Buck Mountain Road property bought and sold within about a month at a $600,000 loss.

That EDA board closed session scheduled for December 20, 2018, the day after the Gregor-McDonald interview, was called in the wake of increasing municipal and EDA scrutiny through 2018 about some of McDonald’s financial activities, including those personal real estate transactions involving the cash she claimed to have won through her Hollywood Casino slot machine activities. It was anticipated that her board would terminate her out of that Executive Session. In fact, McDonald told Gregor during that videotaped interview that she anticipated losing her job the next day due at least in part to then Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley turning her EDA board against her in retaliation for what she claimed was sexual harassment she was enduring from Stanley and another member or two of the community at the time. Stanley was one of the prosecution’s first witnesses in this trial, and his cross-examination reportedly one of the most, if not the most, explosive points of the trial. And darn, I missed it because I was on the far side of the prosecution’s witness list.

The EDA financial scandal has led to multiple civil court cases, with a string of liability convictions, appeals of some of those liability jury findings, and out-of-court settlements surrounding the estimated $ 26 million dollars alleged to have been moved illegally by McDonald and alleged co-conspirators to her and their personal benefit. McDonald herself settled out of civil court with the EDA, sending an estimated $9 million of real estate assets to the EDA under a “no-fault” settlement agreement in which she admitted no wrongdoing in acquiring those assets.

See Royal Examiner’s “EDA in FOCUS” NEWS section archives dating to the Examiner’s founding year of 2016 for further details – and a chronology of events.

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From Economic Pinnacle to Courtroom Spotlight: Jennifer McDonald’s $26-Million Scandal Unfolds – Day 9



Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Shining Star Faces Allegations of Massive Fraud.

For those who’ve watched Jennifer McDonald’s meteoric rise in the economic circles of Front Royal-Warren County, the news was nothing short of a shock. The woman once celebrated for her dynamic contribution to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) now finds herself entangled in a complex web of accusations amounting to a mind-boggling $26 million fraud.

The scene is set in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where the courtroom of the U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald case has been buzzing with activity. For nine court days, riveted attendees have heard testimonies that swing the pendulum of public opinion with each passing hour. Day 9 especially stood out. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon presided over an intense session that spanned from daybreak to dusk. Key witnesses like Robert Boyd, Katrina Gochenour, and SA Justin Hasty gave their accounts, each narrative serving as a piece in the intricate puzzle that determines McDonald’s fate.

However, a significant twist arose when McDonald moved to exclude certain testimonies, particularly one from Roger Bianchini, a reporter with the Royal Examiner newspaper. McDonald’s primary contention revolves around an article Bianchini penned detailing her claims of slot machine winnings at the Hollywood Casino. McDonald showed Bianchini tax receipts as proof of her so-called success. While the government perceives this as pivotal evidence, McDonald’s legal team argues otherwise. They claim the article and testimonies based on it could derail the trial’s trajectory, casting shadows where clarity is sought. Ruling coming soon.

The trial’s continuation on 9/12/2023 promises more revelations and perhaps a step closer to unraveling the truth. For now, a community waits with bated breath, hoping the scales of justice will balance out, shedding light on a controversy that has overshadowed one of its most prominent figures.


EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments

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The Marathon Continues: A Deep Dive into Days 6-8 of U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald



Witness Testimonies Pile Up as the Government Sustains its Case.

The U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald trial in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has steadily unfolded over a span of eight days, featuring a multitude of witnesses and exhaustive presentations from the prosecution. For those following the riveting courtroom drama, it’s evident that the government is doubling down on its evidence against the defendant, Jennifer Rae McDonald, who remains on bond.

Day 6: Seven Hours, Seven Witnesses
Day 6 kicked off with Katrina Gochenour resuming her testimony, followed by an array of witnesses, including Kevin Nicholson, Robert Boyd, Alan Omar, John Reno, Timothy Ivan Kelsey, and Steve Duke. Each provided unique insights into the case at hand, substantiating the government’s narrative. The day concluded after a grueling 7 hours and 14 minutes in court, leaving onlookers pondering what would follow in the subsequent hearings.

Day 7: Fresh Faces, Familiar Narrative
Day 7 saw FBI Special Agent Steve Duke continue his testimony, along with new witnesses, including Elain Kinsey, Desiree Scott, Tracy Bowers, Christina “Christy” Grady, Tricia Dorsey, and Heather Clatterbuck. These testimonies maintained the prosecution’s momentum, reinforcing the government’s case.

Day 8: Short and Sharp
While Day 8 was shorter, clocking at just 1 hour and 20 minutes, it was no less impactful. Presided over by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon, the day featured three witnesses: Debra Morfit, Kathy Whittington, and Eugene Gorlik. Each had their own contributions to the government’s ever-expanding case, leading many to wonder how the defense would counteract in the upcoming sessions.

The complexity of the case and the volume of evidence presented give no indication of a speedy resolution. Judge Dillon confirmed that the trial will resume at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 5th, 2023.

The U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald trial, unfolding in the Western District of Virginia, is proving to be a marathon, not a sprint. With the government fielding an extensive list of witnesses and working meticulously to build its case, the outcome is anybody’s guess. As the defendant remains on bond, the jury, the legal teams, and the public can only wait and watch as the case evolves. All eyes will undoubtedly be on the courtroom when proceedings resume next week.

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Legal Tug-of-War: Cross-Examination Rights and Relevance in U.S. v. McDonald, Day 5 continued



A Deep Dive into the Controversial Courtroom Dynamics of the Jennifer Rae McDonald Trial.

The courtroom is no stranger to drama, but the ongoing trial of Jennifer Rae McDonald, prosecuted by the United States in the Western District of Virginia, has elevated that tension into an intense discourse on the role and limits of cross-examination in the American legal system. At the eye of this storm is Doug Stanley, a government witness whose testimony has been a lightning rod for debates on witness credibility, prosecutorial overreach, and the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

In recent developments, defense counsel sought to question Mr. Stanley on allegations related to sexual harassment and/or assault. The government objected, stating that there was “absolutely no basis for these questions,” further questioning their relevance. This has led to a renewed focus on the critical role of cross-examination in the American judicial system.

The Supreme Court in Alford v. United States stated that cross-examination is a “matter of right” and further described it in Davis v. Alaska as a means by which “the believability of a witness is subject to exploration at trial.” So when the government seeks to limit this aspect of the trial process, it’s bound to draw scrutiny not only from legal experts but from anyone concerned with the concept of fair trials.

The defense argues that they have a good faith basis for the questions. McDonald, the defendant, had previously made allegations against someone in Warren County and a judge, as well as against Doug Stanley. She had filed grievances and described a deteriorating situation, thereby giving the defense grounds for their line of questioning. It should be noted that having a “well-reasoned suspicion” suffices for establishing a good faith basis, as per United States v. Sampol.

The second pillar of the defense’s argument is that the government itself “opened the door” to these questions. During the trial, the prosecution made an effort to introduce evidence of a sexual assault/harassment settlement agreement, thereby inviting further scrutiny into related matters.

Lastly, the defense argued that these questions are not just window dressing; they are relevant. If the government plans to introduce a sexual assault settlement agreement into evidence, as they’ve stated, then any evidence of sexual assault or harassment becomes relevant under the Federal Rules of Evidence 401.

The objection raised by the government against the cross-examination of Doug Stanley touches upon broader, often murky issues related to the limitations of prosecutorial discretion and the rights of a defendant. It brings to focus the balancing act courts must perform between the need for an unbiased trial and protecting the rights of all parties involved. As the trial of Jennifer Rae McDonald progresses, it will serve as a real-time case study for law students, scholars, and citizens alike who are concerned with the fairness and integrity of the American judicial system.

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The Jennifer McDonald Trial: Witness Parade Continues, Day 5



The testimony list expands, the evidence pile grows, and Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon maintains strict order as the court delves deeper into the intricate case against Jennifer McDonald.

On Monday, August 28, 2023, the federal courtroom under Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon hummed with anticipation. Jennifer McDonald, the former Executive Director of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA), faced another grueling day of proceedings. For seven hours and five minutes, the court scrutinized a series of witnesses and evidence. The aim? To untangle a convoluted web of financial misconduct allegedly spearheaded by McDonald.

Continuing from last week’s proceedings, Doug Stanley was once again among the government’s first witnesses. As a recurring figure in this case, his testimonies are proving to be integral to the government’s narrative. Following Stanley, the courtroom saw a succession of new faces: Scott McKay, Jennifer Files, Steven Duke, Kenneth W. Hart, David McClelland, David Cook, and Katrina Gochenour. The inclusion of such diverse witnesses indicates that prosecutors are leaving no stone unturned.

As the government continued its presentation of evidence, what was apparent was the intense scrutiny Judge Dillon applied to each document, statement, and exhibit. The time stamps reveal that the court devoted hours meticulously dissecting every angle of this multifaceted case. For instance, the morning session went on for a little over an hour before a brief pause and then continued for nearly two hours more. The afternoon was even more intense, ending just five minutes shy of 6:00 p.m.

One particular aspect of the trial that stands out is the focus on details. From bank transactions to real estate dealings and beyond, the government seems committed to a rigorous examination of McDonald’s professional life, stretching from her time at FR-WC EDA to her eventual resignation and the consequential legal fallout.

While McDonald remains on bond, it’s worth mentioning that this case initially started at the state level, got transferred through various jurisdictions, and has now reached the federal court. This complex route reflects the gravity and complexity of the charges McDonald faces. The prosecution has exhibited surgical attention to detail, likely a result of the trial’s classification as “complex” due to the sheer volume of involved evidence.

As the trial adjourns until 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, what’s clear is that the prosecution is methodically building its case. The list of witnesses has grown and is expected to continue expanding as the government seeks to solidify its position. While no conclusion is yet in sight, the meticulousness of these proceedings suggests that both the prosecution and defense are gearing up for an exhaustive legal battle. For now, all eyes are set on what Tuesday’s session will unravel.

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Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
Rain Shower
7:01 am7:08 pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 9mph N
Humidity: 92%
Pressure: 30.01"Hg
UV index: 2

Upcoming Events

10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 23 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:00 am National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 23 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Get your hands dirty as we work to mitigate invasive species and improve the natural environment within the park’s campground. Join park rangers as they work to identify and capture these species that[...]
10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 24 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:30 am College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Sep 27 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Join us for College Day at the Middletown Campus, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the Corron Community Development Center. Meet with reps from more than 40 public and private universities, including Bluefield[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Sep 27 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 30 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connections Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the remarkable seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This full-day hike will cover native and[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Oct 7 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]