Following another week of Economic Development Authority Special Grand Jury interviews former EDA Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald, her husband, Samuel “Sammy” David North and Donald Poe were booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Jail (RSW Jail) in the late afternoon and early evening hours of Friday, August 23.
According to the RSW Jail website, North was booked into the facility at 5:25 p.m. on two felony counts of Obtaining Money by False Pretenses and one felony count of Money Laundering – “Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity”.
Jail records showed McDonald being booked at 6:22 p.m. The jail website list of charges against her remained at 14. So it was not immediately clear if she was facing additional charges or had been booked on a bond violation. A call to the jail booking department indicated that online buffering of information on McDonald could indicate she was still being processed into the jail. The counts against McDonald include six Fraud – Obtain Money by False Pretenses; five Money Laundering counts and three Embezzlement charges. Since the EDA indictments are coming from the Grand Jury sealed there is no further detail on the charges available at this point.
Poe was shown being booked at 6:31 p.m. Friday evening on one count of Money Laundering – “Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity”.
McDonald was arrested on May 24 on eight initial counts. She was twice served with additional charges while incarcerated. After twice being denied bond as a flight risk by Judge Clifford L. Athey, she was granted $50,000 secured bond on July 31, by newly-placed Judge Bruce D. Albertson.
The special grand jury that has handed down criminal charges, now against four people, McDonald, her former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry, business partner Donald Poe and now her husband, was empanelled within a day of the EDA’s initial $17.6 million civil suit being filed on March 26. The amount of assets seeking recovery has since been raised to over $20 million.
A press release issued today indicated the EDA grand jury has requested a six-month extension to continue its inquiry. It was also requested that Assistant Warren County Commonwealths’ Attorney Bryan Layton continue as the lead prosecutor of the grand jury as Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden prepares to take a seat on the judicial bench.
McDonald was the central figure in the nine defendant EDA civil action. Other defendants included McDonald’s two real estate companies, D’BOYZ and MoveON8, ITFederal LLC and its CEO Truc “Curt” Tran; Earth Right Energy LLC and its principals Poe and Justin Appleton and the late Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron.
Like McDonald, after spending some time in jail, both Henry and Poe were granted secured bonds. Henry was granted $2500 unsecured bond on July 23 after twice having a bond hearing continued in the wake of her June 24 arrest. McDonald and Poe were granted $50,000 and $20,000 secured bonds by Judge Bruce D. Albertson on July 31. Poe was arrested on July 23 on two financial counts related to EDA affairs.
No hearing dates were yet posted for McDonald, North or Poe.
Linden man arrested, charged for child abuse
On October 12, 2021, at approximately 8:20pm, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an 8-year-old juvenile walking on Freezeland Road, Linden, Virginia. The caller stated the juvenile advised them they were running away from home due to being abused by their father. Deputies responded to 78 Lookout Point Way, Linden, Virginia, where the juvenile resides to perform a welfare check. Upon arrival deputies spoke with Matthew Steven Lewis, the juvenile’s father, and made contact with the juvenile. During the welfare check, deputies observed that the juvenile had sustained multiple injuries. Deputies had Warren County Fire & Rescue respond to the residence, and the juvenile was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
After the initial investigation Matthew Steven Lewis was placed under arrest for Domestic Assault (M), Child Endangerment (F), and Strangulation (F). Matthew Steven Lewis was held without bond at RSW Regional Jail, preliminary hearing is set for November 4, 2021.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Front Royal Police Department, Virginia State Police, and Warren County Department of Social Services for their assistance.
Harrisonburg man faces Reckless Driving charge in fatal 3-car crash on I-81 in Rockingham County
Virginia State Police Trooper M. Salladay is investigating a three-vehicle fatal crash in Rockingham County. The crash occurred Thursday, October 7th, at 7:10 p.m. along Interstate 81 at the 249-mile-marker.
A 2006 Buick Lucerne was traveling South on I-81 when it rear-ended a 2010 Honda CRV that stopped due to heavy traffic. The impact caused the Honda to be pushed into a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado that was also stopped due to traffic. The Honda then caught fire.
The driver of the Buick, Samuel C. Holtzman, 22, of Harrisonburg, VA, suffered minor injuries in the crash and was transported to Sentara RMH Hospital for treatment. Holtzman was wearing a seatbelt.
The driver of the Honda, a 23-year-old female, of Chesterfield, VA, died at the scene of the crash as a result of her injuries. The female was wearing a seatbelt. The female’s identity is being withheld pending next of kin notification.
The driver of the Chevrolet, a 59-year-old male, of Thorn Hill, TN, was not injured in the crash. The male was wearing a seatbelt.
Holtzman was charged with reckless driving.
VSP’s Culpeper Division Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and is assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.
Early ‘Person of Interest’ convicted in 2008 murder of Marshall-based Zen Buddhist monk
Over 13 years after a Korean Zen Buddhist Monk with ties to this community, known popularly by his ordained name Monk Mogu, was found stabbed to death in June 2008 several days after his death at his Marshall residence/temple, a fellow countryman and early suspect in the investigation has been found guilty of Second Degree Murder in the case.
Won Yung Jung, 62 at the time of his late November 2020 arrest in his home area of Georgia, will be sentenced in January in the death of Du Chil Park. According to observers at the courthouse, a jury deliberated for about three hours, Thursday, September 30, before returning the verdict.
While Jung never admitted to the murder, he led Fauquier investigators aided by FBI Korean language experts, on a twisting path of the initial denial of knowing the monk; to later admissions of being present and extremely intoxicated the evening of the June 23-24, 2008 murder, and awakening on the monk’s couch the next day to find Park’s bloody corpse in the monk’s bedroom.
According to Fauquier Times coverage of investigative agents testimony at trial Jung eventually admitted to going to the monk’s Free State area home/temple on June 23, 2008, to ask for help in paying off a gambling debt. He said while the monk said he did not have money to help him, he agreed to accompany his long-time acquaintance to his Atlanta suburb area home while he asked for help from family members on the gambling debt. Jung reasoned that having a monk accompany him would lend credence to his plea for financial assistance, an agent testified. One of the interviewing agents also testified that Jung told them his nickname was “coma” because he often blacks out when drinking. Jung was charged with Second Degree Murder due the apparent lack of premeditation, according to his recollection of events.
In the end, the jury rejected defense arguments that Jung had no motive to kill Park and that his inability to remember the murder due to his level of intoxication was sufficient evidence he did not commit it.
Information released by Fauquier authorities in the wake of his 2008 murder indicated Park came to America in 1998 and established the Jungtosa Zen Buddhist Temple in the Springfield area of Fairfax County, moving the temple to Marshall in March of 2004 and continuing his healing work in acupuncture and moxibustion, the latter also “an oriental medicine therapy”.
Born in Kyong Ju, South Korea around 1951-52, Fauquier authorities also noted that “in the 1970’s/80’s Park was an activist against former Korean military governments. He was imprisoned in 1974 for hiding an activist on the run and then became a Monk in 1978” and “operated a small temple in Chung Noung, a part of Seoul, where he treated poor people with acupuncture and moxibustion.”
A Warren County resident with connections to Park and his healing work as Monk Mogu noted he often traveled to the Front Royal area to treat children and adults, some with serious physical disabilities. “His mantra was always ‘to help alleviate pain for all sentient beings’,” that area friend told this reporter.
Former Christiansburg Police Officer sentenced to 40 years for distribution and possession of child pornography
RICHMOND (September 29, 2021) – Former Christiansburg Police Department Officer Ethan Michael Havens, 26, of Christiansburg, has pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court to three counts of distribution of child pornography and two counts of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to three years of active imprisonment with an additional 37 years suspended. Attorney General Mark R. Herring made the announcement after the guilty plea was accepted by Circuit Court Judge Robert M.D. Turk.
“Anyone who possess and distributes child pornography must be held accountable for contributing to the exploitation of children, but especially when that person is a law enforcement officer who has taken an oath to protect his community,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I remain dedicated to keeping dangerous individuals off of our streets and out of our communities. I want to thank my team for their hard work as well as our local and state partners for their continued collaboration on important cases like this one.”
Evidence presented in court showed that Havens had distributed four images of child pornography through his Twitter account, all of which depicted the sexual exploitation of minor females. Officers subsequently interviewed Havens who admitted to viewing child pornography on his cell phone and to exchanging child pornographic images through Twitter. A subsequent forensic examination of his seized cell phone revealed 38 saved images of child pornography. Havens was employed as a police officer with the Christiansburg Police Department when he committed the crimes. As part of the plea, Havens will have to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction where he works or resides following imprisonment.
This case was investigated by the Virginia State Police, as part of the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Paoletta of Attorney General Herring’s Computer Crime Section prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.
11th St. verbal altercation leads to 2 malicious wounding charges
On Friday, September 24, 2021, at approximately 11:15 am, Front Royal Police Department received a report of a fight in the 600 block of West 11th Street. Upon arrival, two victims were located outside of 654 W. 11th Street. Both were suffering wounds to their face and head. The offender had left the scene on foot but was located by officers approximately 2 blocks away. The victims were a 21-year-old male and a 50-year-old female who were both assaulted after a verbal altercation in the roadway. Both victims suffered blunt force trauma to the head and face after being struck multiple times by the offender. The victims were both transported to Warren Memorial Hospital due to injuries sustained in the assault.
As a result of this investigation, Front Royal resident Michael A. Craig Sr., 36, was arrested on two counts of § 18.2- 51; Malicious Wounding and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he is currently being held without bond. A court date for these offenses is set for November 30, 2021, at 10:00 am in Warren County General District Court.
Anyone with further information in connection to this investigation is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Michael A. Craig Sr.
Description: 5’09” black male, black hair, and brown eyes
Address: 624 Massanutten Ave, Front Royal VA 22630
Offenses: § 18.2-51. Shooting, stabbing, etc., with intent to maim, kill, etc. (x2 counts)
Judge dismisses Meza appointment/’election’ challenge a second time
On Wednesday morning, September 22, counsels for Plaintiff Paul L. Aldrich and Defendants the Town of Front Royal and recently resigned councilman Jacob L. Meza, revisited oral arguments on the defendants’ Demurrer motion to dismiss the plaintiff case as not having the legal standing to proceed.
And the following afternoon Warren County Circuit Court Judge William W. Sharp issued a written ruling, upholding the defense demurrer motion to dismiss for the second time. That despite an earlier Thursday morning request from plaintiff attorney David Downes for an additional week to file supporting arguments on the aspect of immediate or preliminary injunctions for relief sought by the plaintiff, raised the previous day. Downes explained in his written request that he had not anticipated the issue of immediate relief injunctions remaining part of the arguments Wednesday, due to evolving circumstances – most prominently Meza’s resignation, effective immediately at council’s July 26 meeting – and previous rulings on the issue upholding that portion of the defense demurrer motion.
“As I write this, I am aware that Mr. Downes has filed a Motion seeking additional time to brief the de facto officer doctrine, raised by the Court. I see no reason to grant the motion. This appears to be a well-established common law doctrine, and I am confident it applies to this case. Further, the Court had previously raised this doctrine in ruling on the Demurrer to the original Complaint, yet the Plaintiff ignored that part of my opinion in his Amended Complaint,” Judge Sharp noted in denying the plaintiff counsel request for time to submit amended arguments.
Judge Sharpe quoted several past U.S. Supreme Court justices on the advised willingness judges should have to re-examine their own decisions in prefacing his own re-examination of his initial April 7 ruling in favor of the defense demurrer motion to dismiss.
“It is ‘the duty of every judge and every court to examine its own decisions … without fear, and to revise them without reluctance’,” Justice William O. Douglas quoting a judge of the New York Court of Appeals.
“Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late,” Justice Felix Frankfurter.
“I see no reason why I should be consciously wrong today because I was unconsciously wrong yesterday,” Justice Robert H. Jackson.
Of his decision to allow an amended plaintiff complaint to be filed and revisit his original ruling for the defense, Sharp wrote in late April, “Not a small part of my decision to enter the stay order, and give one last chance for oral argument, is my realization that I gave a very poor articulation of my reasons for my original decision, and I do not want to make that mistake again. It is therefore my intention to give a written explanation of my decision, whichever way it goes, in which my words are more carefully expressed.”
But in his continued analysis of arguments on the standing and substance of Plaintiff Aldrich’s filing, made as a town taxpaying citizen potentially impacted financially and otherwise by votes of an illegally appointed council member, Judge Sharp upheld his initial ruling in favor of the defense motion to dismiss. The judge addressed the changed circumstance of Meza’s resignation removing major points of relief sought by the plaintiff. “Gone is any issue of removing an ‘illegally’ installed councilman,” Sharp observed.
Of the plaintiff claim of potential damage from Meza’s appointment, Sharp wrote: “Mr. Aldrich’s second amended complaint establishes that he is a citizen and taxpayer of the Town of Front Royal. The complaint alleges several decisions of the town council in which Mr. Meza participated, resulting in expenditures. However, the complaint does not allege that any of these decisions impacted any of Mr. Aldrich’s rights. Furthermore, the complaint does not allege that Mr. Meza’ s presence on the council had a causal relationship to any of these expenditures. While he participated in the votes, including moving or seconding motions, there is no claim that the actions would not have passed but for Meza’s participation.”
Noting his previous ruling that council actions could not be voided due to Meza’s participation in votes prior to a ruling on the legality of his seating, Judge Sharp made it fairly clear a second request for an amended complaint might be a futile gesture. “As Meza is no longer subject to removal from office and his prior actions are not voidable, I do not see any potential ongoing justiciable controversy, much less impacted right of the petitioner, that would warrant permitting another Amended Complaint,” Sharp concluded.
But has the question of whether the wording of the Town Charter dating to 1937, supports the reappointment by “election” of council members within a year of their leaving office been resolved? The judge dealt with his interpretation of that core question in his written decision:
“While Mr. Aldrich’s lack of standing disposes of the case, even if he had proper standing to challenge the appointment of Mr. Meza to the council, this claim would also fail under the law. The chief phrase of the Town Charter in dispute concerns whether membership on the town council is an ‘office under the jurisdiction of the council.’ There can be no dispute that the members of the council are officers of the town, as provided under §4 of the Charter. The question, rather, is whether such officers are considered to be under the jurisdiction of the council in the context of §47.
Chapter 47 of the Town Charter was the basis of the plaintiff’s challenge of the Meza appointment. It states: “No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter,” the relevant Section 47 passage reads. However, the court continued to side with defense counsel arguments that other Chapters of the Town Charter applied to council appointments to fill vacancies, specifically 6D and 9.
In her Demurrer filing for dismissal, defense counsel Heather Bardot pointed to Section 6D and related wording on filling council vacancies, such as the one created by Councilman Chris Holloway’s November 2020 election to mayor. “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs within the membership of council for the unexpired term, provided that such vacancy is taken within 45 days of the office becoming vacant,” Section 6D states. No reference to a one-year hiatus per appointments is made here, Bardot noted. Only the court’s authority to make the appointment were council to deadlock and be unable to fill the seat within the prescribed 45 days, is acknowledged.
Meza’s appointment was made January 4, 2021, four days after Holloway relinquished his council seat to become mayor and four days after Meza, who did not run for reelection after a controversial final year in office, vacated his seat. In 2020 Meza appeared to have alienated a portion of his base related to his Valley Health employment during the previous year. Meza did not express support for the “Birth Local” movement seeking to have Valley Health include a Maternity Unit in the new Warren Memorial Hospital. And after recusing himself from previous discussion of the new hospital funding due to his employment, the councilman chose to cast a deciding vote authorizing that EDA funding on the Town side.
In oral arguments on the original complaint, plaintiff counsel Downes suggested that Chapter 47 was intended to include council seats in the one-year prohibition, not only because council members are “under the jurisdiction” of their colleagues, but also to avoid the appearance or fact of partisan political cronyism in town politics. With the four member majority that appointed him by a 4-1 vote coming from the county Republican Committee, of which he is also a member, plaintiff counsel suggested one might at least infer the appearance of political cronyism in returning Meza to office so quickly after a voluntary choice to leave that office.
However, the judge continued to side with the defense stance that the Chapter 47 one-year prohibition applied only to appointed Town staff positions.
“A comparison with the other named offices-especially those clearly under the Council’s jurisdiction-is instructive. The town treasurer, town manager, and town clerk are explicitly appointed by the council as a general rule, rather than as an exception to fill vacancies. The Council is authorized to exercise considerable oversight on them, with the ability to remove them from office and/or reassign their duties to other officers. By contrast, the council may only remove one of its own members in the case of repeated absences and exerts no other comparable oversight on its members. Furthermore, while the Charter provides that only the Council has authority to appoint the treasurer, clerk, and town manager, the Council shares its authority with the Circuit Court to appoint members to the Council when a vacancy arises. The Council can fairly be said to exercise general power over the clerk, treasurer, and town manager, but not over its own membership. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to find that membership in the Council is an office of the sort meant to be governed by §47,” Judge Sharp wrote of his stance on the matter at the heart of the citizen challenge of Meza’s appointment.