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Prostitution and “Bawdy Place” on Biggs Drive: Four arrested

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On May 15, 2019, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the 300 block of Biggs Drive in continuance of an active investigation. Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police also assisted. Felony and misdemeanor charges were obtained on Cynthia Atkinson Bailey, Brandy Nicole Atkinson, Jesse Thomas Atkinson and Joshua Allan Stamper related to an investigation involving prostitution and maintaining a bawdy place.

Cynthia Bailey was charged and arrested for maintaining a bawdy place, receiving money from earnings of prostitution, prostitution and cruelty to children. Brandy Atkinson was charged and arrested with maintaining a bawdy place, prostitution and cruelty to children.

Both Cynthia Bailey and Brandy Atkinson were released from RSW on a secured bond. While Jesse Atkinson is currently being held on a Probation Violation. Court dates for this incident are set for June 18, 2019, at 10:00am in General District Court and June 20, 2019, at 9:00am in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Jesse Atkinson was arrested and charged with maintaining a bawdy place and is being held at RSW Regional Jail for probation violation. Joshua Stamper was charged with maintaining a bawdy place and is currently being held at Rappahannock Regional Jail located in Stafford County on unrelated charges.

Anyone who has any further information about this investigation is asked to contact Detective D. Fogle at the Front Royal Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division at 540-636-2208 or dfogle@frontroyalva.com.

What’s a “bawdy place”?

In Virginia, all forms of prostitution are against the law. Here’s the state code on the above charges:

§ 18.2-347. Keeping, residing in or frequenting a bawdy place; “bawdy place” defined.
It shall be unlawful for any person to keep any bawdy place, or to reside in or at or visit, for immoral purposes, any such bawdy place. Each and every day such bawdy place shall be kept, resided in or visited, shall constitute a separate offense. In a prosecution under this section the general reputation of the place may be proved.

As used in this Code, “bawdy place” shall mean any place within or without any building or structure which is used or is to be used for lewdness, assignation or prostitution.

§ 18.2-346. Prostitution; commercial sexual conduct; commercial exploitation of a minor; penalties.
A. Any person who, for money or its equivalent, (i) commits adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, performs cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engages in anal intercourse or (ii) offers to commit adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, perform cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engage in anal intercourse and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof is guilty of prostitution, which is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Any person who offers money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts as enumerated in subsection A and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof is guilty of solicitation of prostitution, which is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, any person who solicits prostitution from a minor (i) 16 years of age or older is guilty of a Class 6 felony or (ii) younger than 16 years of age is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

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Chief District Judge Albertson poised to hear Henry bond arguments

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Michelle ‘Missy’ Henry continues to wear jailhouse garb pending a third date for her bond hearing this Tuesday, July 23. However, she will remain housed at RSW Jail until that hearing, rather than be returned to the Manassas jail she was transferred to on June 25. Photo RSW website

Former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Michelle “Missy” Henry had a second bond hearing continued Friday, July 19. Henry appeared with co-counsel Ryan Nuzzo and David Hensley near the end of the 9 a.m. morning docket at 12:07 p.m. The hearing was over at 12:10 p.m.

Judge William W. Sharp reaffirmed his recusal from all EDA matters, then continued Henry’s bond hearing to Tuesday, July 23, on the morning docket. Sharp indicated that 26th Judicial District Chief Judge Bruce D. Albertson would be present to hear arguments at that time. As chief presiding district judge Albertson is responsible for naming a substitute judge to hear EDA civil and criminal cases in the wake of Judge Sharp’s recusal and Judge Clifford L. Athey’s move away from circuit court duties as he prepares to take a seat on the Virginia State Appeals Court on September 1.

Sharp submitted a written recusal on July 12, citing what might be called “small-town syndrome” – a personal or professional familiarity with many involved parties either named as defendants or potential witnesses in EDA matters. Albertson is based out of Harrisonburg.

Discussing their client’s situation outside the courtroom Friday afternoon, Henry’s attorneys said it was their understanding that not only would Albertson be present to hear and make a ruling on bond arguments Tuesday, but was poised to name a substitute judge on the criminal and civil matters arising from the EDA fraud investigation. They said it was also their understanding that appointment could be a self-appointment.

“Missy” Henry became the second person indicted criminally by the Special Grand Jury empanelled to investigate potential criminality tied to the EDA financial fraud investigation begun in mid-September 2018. The first criminal indictments handed down were against Henry’s former boss, former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. McDonald was arrested by Virginia State Police on special grand jury sealed indictments May 24, Henry on June 24.

It appeared that at least five Henry family members were present to see Tuesday’s developments unfold. In arguing for bond at Henry’s first hearing on June 25, the day after her arrest, Nuzzo pointed to Henry’s long and deep community ties. He also noted that the events named in her two embezzlement indictments surrounding the EDA’s B&G Goods small business loan and asset dispersal on the old Stokes Mart property dated to 2014 to 2016.

For Michelle Henry’s family the wheels of justice must seem to be spinning in neutral. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

“These are very old actions …If she was a flight risk she would have fled by now,” Nuzzo told substitute Judge Thomas D. Horne. Horne deferred a ruling on bond arguments due to his unfamiliarity with the case, continuing the matter to July 19.

Jail transfer sought
In a related matter, Henrys’ counsel filed a motion Thursday, July 18, to have their client moved out of the Prince William Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center some 44 miles out of this community and away from her family’s home base.

Of that move over an hour’s drive away following her first bond hearing on June 25, Henry’s “Motion To Compel Jail To Cancel Courtesy Hold” observes, “Without agreement of the parties or Order of this Court, the RSW Regional Jail, which is the holding facility for inmates and Defendants held without bond for Warren County, arranged for the transportation of Your Defendant … to the Prince William Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center, located at 9320 Lee Ave., Manassas, VA 20110 … This holding facility has an incredibly limited visitation schedule, including for legal visits, and has no direct phone line from which Counsel may contact their client.”

The defense motion included an attachment with the Manassas jail’s visitation schedule and rules. It showed two, 2-1/2-hour visitation blocks (8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and one 3-hour block (noon to 3 p.m.) per day; and a notation that “general population inmates” are allowed one 20 to 30-minute visit per week.

At the time of the transfer RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison indicated Henry was moved due to the high-profile nature of the EDA investigation locally and personal safety concerns. McDonald was transferred to the Fairfax Adult Detention Center for similar reasons on June 11.

“While RSW may have had good motives in being concerned for Your Defendant due to Your Defendant’s son being an employee of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, the location they have chosen is unduly unfair to her access to Counsel and her family,” the defense motion for a jail transfer observes.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Gilkison said Henry was being transported directly back to the Manassas jail from the Warren County Courthouse when a notice from the court to keep her housed at RSW pending Tuesday’s bond hearing was received. So that transport will be redirected to RSW, Gilkison indicated.

Henry attorney Nuzzo said that were bond to be denied Tuesday, it is likely the court would hear arguments on the change of jail location motion submitted last Thursday. As an alternative to either the Prince William-Manassas Jail or RSW, the defense motion suggests the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County, a 27 mile, approximate half-hour drive.

6601 Winchester Rd – ‘Missy’ Henry will remain closer to home pending her Tuesday bond hearing. Her family hopes she will return home following that hearing which will come one month after her June 24 arrest.

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Former RSW Corrections Officer arrested; held without bond

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Chasity R. Sherfey. Photo courtesy RSW Jail.

On July 9, 2019, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office was requested to respond and investigate an incident at RSW Regional Jail.

RSW Regional Jail staff reported that they received information that a former Corrections Officer at their facility, identified as Chasity R. Sherfey, may have been involved in delivering items to an inmate and having a sexual relationship with an inmate.

During the course of the investigation, interviews were conducted along with reviewing video footage and collecting other evidence.

On July 18, 2019, Chasity R. Sherfey, 39 of Stanley, was arrested and taken before a magistrate on the following charges.

  • § 18.2-474. Delivery of articles to prisoners or committed person (5 counts)
  • § 18.2-64.2. Carnal knowledge of an inmate, parolee, probationer, detainee, or pretrial or post trial offender (2 counts)

Sherfey was held without bond at RSW Regional Jail.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Investigator Baker at (540) 635-7100 or invbaker@warrencountysheriff.org.

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Local man jumps from the South Fork Bridge

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On July 18, 2019, at approximately 10:06am, officers from The Front Royal Police Department responded to N. Shenandoah Avenue for a report of a male that had jumped from the South Fork Bridge. Witnesses advised that the male stepped over the railing of the bridge and then off the edge.

Upon arrival, officers discovered a male, later identified as Patrick Cooper, 30-year-old resident of Front Royal, on the ground beneath the bridge. Cooper sustained what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to Winchester Medical Center by personnel with the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Anyone with further information on this incident, please contact Front Royal Police Sergeant T. Cave at 540-635-2111 or by email at tcave@frontroyalva.com.

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Judge shake up threatens a second Henry bond hearing on Friday

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Is ‘Missy’ Henry facing a second delay in consideration of her request for bond related to two EDA-related financial felony charges? Photo RSW Jail website

As noted in our story on the Town of Front Royal’s $12 million amendment to its June 21 civil suit for recovery of lost assets through fraudulent financial activity within operations of the Town-County Economic Development Authority, a motions hearing in the EDA’s $21.1 million civil suit was removed from the Warren County Circuit Court docket on Wednesday, July 17.

The EDA civil motions hearing joins Jennifer McDonald’s scheduled July 15 plea hearing in awaiting appointment of another 26th District Judicial District judge to replace two Warren County Circuit Court judges, Clifford L. Athey Jr. and William W. Sharp.

Athey, who has heard all the civil and criminal case hearings stemming from the EDA financial fraud investigation, is phasing out of local court duties as he prepares to join the Virginia State Appeals Court on September 1.

On July 12 Sharpe submitted a written recusal from all EDA-related cases due to his knowledge of so many involved players, including defendants and potential witnesses. That knowledge, Sharpe wrote, comes from past professional and personal associations. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton noted some of the personal associations date to Sharpe Front Royal Rotary membership. Primary EDA defendant Jennifer McDonald held the annual Rotary president’s chair, circa 2016-17.

Rotary connections are believed to be part of the reason Judge Sharpe has recused himself from hearing all EDA-related cases. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

It remained unclear Wednesday if McDonald’s former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry’s second scheduled bond hearing would again be continued due to the absence of a judge either eligible or familiar enough with the case to render a bond decision. Circuit Court Clerk Janice Shanks has told media that it appears Judge Athey has handed the county circuit court bench over to Judge Sharpe. However, she also observed that Athey was expected to be at the courthouse Friday, July 19, when Henry’s second bond hearing is scheduled.

Athey has twice denied McDonald bond, citing her as a flight risk if she has access to even a tenth of the money cited in the EDA civil suit which seems to revolve around her actions or assertions to the EDA Board of Directors. But while McDonald is believed to have moved several million dollars to her own benefit, Henry’s charges related to the Stokes Mart buildings purchase and a B&G Goods EDA small business loan appear to involve considerably less money being directly accessed by Henry.

“MCDONALD is suspected of colluding with HENRY, LAMBERT, and possibly POE to acquire the Stokes Mart property under false pretense to facilitate several different embezzle schemes of which payments herein as repairs and maintenance for B&G or paid directly to LAMBERT are approximately $21,000,” CPA fraud investigator Cherry Bekaert wrote. A $36,000 small business loan is also referenced in that section of the EDA fraud report, though it appears one of McDonald’s real estate companies paid that loan off.

Henry was arrested on two felony counts for the “unlawful use, disposal, conversion, embezzlement of property of the EDA” on June 24, exactly one month after McDonald’s arrest on the first four of what currently stands at 12 felony financial charges related to fraudulent use of EDA assets. In Athey’s absence from court on June 25, retired substitute Judge Thomas Horne deferred a decision on Henrys’ bond request due to his unfamiliarity with the case.

At that June 25 hearing Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton argued that like her former EDA boss Jennifer McDonald, Henry should be denied bond. He pointed, not only to her believed involvement in the Stokes Mart/B&G Goods situation, but her normal administrative assistant’s role in aiding McDonald with wire transfers. Layton did acknowledge that Henry has yet to be charged related to McDonald’s alleged wire transfer frauds. Layton called the existing two charges against Henry “a betrayal of the public trust”.

“The prosecution is trying to shoehorn her on to collateral charges against the other, main defendant,” attorney Ryan Nuzzo said in rebutting Layton’s portrayal of his client on June 25.

Decision on former EDA Administrative Assistant bond deferred to mid-July

Nuzzo also pointed to Henry’s long and broad community ties. Defense counsel noted that the dates of the charges related to the B&G Goods transactions at the base of his client’s case were between October 1 and December 30, 2016 and September 1, 2014 to December 30, 2016.

“These are very old actions …If she was a flight risk she would have fled by now,” Nuzzo told the court.

Stay tuned to see if anyone is available to re-listen to those arguments and render a decision on Henry’s bond status this Friday, July 19.

The courthouse drama Friday will involve the presence or absence of a judge eligible to hear and render a decision on bond arguments for Michelle ‘Missy’ Henry.

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Manassas man charged with cruelty and injuries to children

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Malcolm E. Tapscott Jr, 25, of Manassas, was charged and arrested for § 40.1-103 cruelty and injuries to children.

On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Malcolm E. Tapscott Jr, 25, of Manassas, was charged and arrested for § 40.1-103 cruelty and injuries to children. The victim is a 17-month-old child who was in Tapscott’s care when the alleged incident occurred. The alleged assault occurred in the 300 block of Cherrydale Avenue. A forensic examination of his injuries was conducted by Winchester Medical Center. The injuries sustained were serious but not life threatening.

Mr. Tapscott Jr. was arrested without incident and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail where he went before the magistrate and was ordered to be held without bond. A court date for this offense is set for August 29, 2019, at 9:00am, in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. No further details are available in this case due to the ongoing investigation.

Anyone with any further information in reference to this case is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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He’s back: Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation charge dropped – will run for mayor

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Flanked by colleagues Bill Sealock and Letasha Thompson, then Mayor Hollis Tharpe listens as former Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger addressed council on March 25 regarding past mistakes on the EDA front. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

An emotional Hollis Tharpe let one of his attorneys speak for him in the wake of Special Prosecutor Heather Hovermale’s request that Judge William W. Sharpe dismiss the misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge against him Monday afternoon. It was a request Judge Sharpe granted.

“Based on this testimony the Commonwealth believes it cannot go forward,” Hovermale said after posing several questions to Cynthia Bailey, operator of a massage parlor on the 300 block of Biggs Drive in Front Royal. Bailey responded to each question, including whether she knew Tharpe or if he had ever touched her in a way she did not invite, asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to self incriminate.

As noted by her attorney David Downes prior to her questioning by the special prosecutor, the 55-year-old Bailey is facing two misdemeanor and two felony charges related to the operation of her massage parlor under the banner of Blue Valley Services.

Prior to questioning Bailey, Hovermale told the court prosecutors initially believed Bailey would be a cooperating witness, but later learned through her attorney that she planned to exercise her Fifth Amendment right if called as a witness in the Tharpe prosecution. Hovermale noted that the Commonwealth’s case against Tharpe revolved around Bailey, whom she observed was the only person present to hear the alleged solicitation request by Tharpe.

The whole hearing lasted 10 minutes, ending at 3 p.m., Monday afternoon, July 15.

Tharpe initially stopped outside the second-floor Warren County Circuit Courtroom B to address media present, but then quietly turned away arm in arm with his wife Debbie, saying, “I’m a little emotional right now,” as tears welled in his eyes and the couple moved away for some privacy.

Beau Bassler and David Hensley represented Tharpe. As Hensley returned to the courtroom for another case, Bassler commented on the outpouring of support his client had received from old friends and new – “Hundreds, thousands of people have sent prayers to him; they believe in him. He is a man of faith and that faith has taken him far. His wife, family and friends have all stood by him.”

Bassler noted his client’s resignation as mayor of Front Royal in the wake of the charges – “He stepped down so as not to be a distraction to the conduct of town government. Fortunately now the distraction in his life is over.”

“I guess it is appropriate at this time to announce I will be on the ballot for the November 5th election,” Tharpe did manage to say outside the courtroom. He said he had turned about 190 signatures in to the Voter Registrar to get on the mayoral ballot in November, 125 signatures are required to be put on the ballot.

After being indicted on the one misdemeanor count of solicitation by a Warren County Grand Jury, perhaps ironically whose foreman was now Interim Front Royal Mayor Matthew Tederick, on April 15, Tharpe initially announced he would place himself on administrative leave. But four days later on April 19 Tharpe said he would resign as mayor effective May 2. Tharpe explained his decisions as not wanting the charge against him to distract town government from the conduct of its business pending a resolution of his case.

At the time Tharpe called the misdemeanor charge against him “embarrassing” and “baseless”. He admitted to visiting the massage parlor, but for what he said were legitimate massages on his aching 67-year-old body.

Asked Monday if he now regretted stepping down as mayor, Tharpe said no. But he later added outside the courthouse, “They can’t take the mayor’s job away from me, the people gave it to me with 95% of the vote. Tharpe ran unopposed in his last election for a term slated to run to 2020. Interim Mayor Tederick has said he is not interested in seeking election to a full term.

Tharpe converses with constituent following March 25 meeting – could a reprise of such mayoral conversations be on the horizon following Monday’s developments?

Tharpe attorney Bassler praised the special prosecutor for her actions at Monday’s hearing. “Heather Hovermale is a fair prosecutor, a prosecutor of integrity. Instead of prolonging this to torture someone, in the face of developments in the case she let it go.”

Front Royal mayor poised for indictment on sexual solicitation charge

A Virginia State Police press release announcing Tharpe’s pending indictment on April 12 indicated Tharpe’s charge stemmed from an investigation launched at the direction of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

That there was an investigation into Tharpe went public on August 30, 2018, when Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden filed notice he would recuse himself from any possible prosecution relating to an “Investigation Concerning Hollis Tharpe”. Special Prosecutor Hovermale works out of the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office of Marc Abrams, which was handed the case following Madden’s recusal announcement.

As press releases fly, plot thickens in Tharpe sex solicitation case

Had Bailey testified against Tharpe during Monday’s hearing, arguments on a change of venue request by the prosecution would have been heard. However in the wake of Bailey’s invocation of her Fifth Amendment right, the change of venue request became a moot point.

Trial date of Oct. 25 set in Tharpe solicitation case – prosecution seeks change of venue

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