In response to queries about a reported shooting in Linden over the weekend, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office issued the following press release at 8:52 p.m., Monday evening, July 12. Facing charges related to the Saturday afternoon shooting incident in which no one was injured is 58-year-old Shawn Michael West, a Linden resident. Below is the press release in its entirety:
A report of shots fired along the 100 block of Red Robin Lane in Linden, Virginia was received by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, July 10, at approximately 01:36 PM. The suspect vehicle was reported to have left the scene in an unknown direction of travel around 1:45 PM. Three spent .45 caliber casings were recovered at the scene and a local dispatch to attempt to locate the suspect vehicle was issued at approximately 1:59 PM. Investigating Deputies identified the suspect vehicle as being a white Chevy 2500 pickup truck.
On 7/10/2021 at 2:29 PM, members of the Front Royal Police Department located the suspect vehicle in the area of Winchester Road (Route 340/522 North) and Interstate-66 in Front Royal, and effected a high-risk traffic stop without further incident. The driver, Shawn Michael West was questioned briefly at the scene and custody transferred to the WCSO. The white pickup truck was towed, and three handguns and ammunition were later recovered from within the vehicle as a result of a search warrant.
Arrest warrants and complaints were obtained by the WCSO, and Shawn Michael West, age 58 of Linden, Virginia was subsequently charged with two misdemeanors and one felony related to this incident. West was charged with a single count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (§18.2-308.2), reckless handing of a firearm (§18.2-56.1) and transporting a firearm in violation of a Protection Order (§18.2-308.1:4). West has an initial court date set of 8/18/2021. No persons were injured during the incident.
(Approved for release on 07/12/2021 by Major J.A. Driskill, Sr.)
UPDATE: EDA and McDonald agree to $9-million debt exemption to her bankruptcy claim
On Tuesday, July 20, U.S. Western District Harrisonburg Division Bankruptcy Court Judge Rebecca B. Connelly issued a “Non-Dischargeable Consent Order Judgement” in Jennifer McDonald’s bankruptcy filing. The judge’s order decrees that “The Warren EDA is granted judgment against and is entitled to recover from Debtor, the sum of $9,000,000; and this judgment shall survive discharge of the Debtor in this Chapter 7 bankruptcy …”
The preface to Judge Connelly’s ruling notes that “In the interest of resolving this matter and avoiding litigation uncertainty, risks, and costs, but without the Debtor admitting the Warren EDA’s allegations, the Warren EDA and the Debtor have engaged in arm’s length negotiations and agree that the Warren EDA’s non-dischargeable claim is in the amount of $9,000,000 …”
The bottom line appears to be that the EDA and its former executive director have agreed that $9 million is the amount of the EDA’s civil court claim against McDonald, without her agreeing that she actually did anything wrong to justify the claim. So, that amount will be subject to collection in the civil action claim by the EDA outside the bankruptcy court process. The bankruptcy court order notes that any amount the EDA was to recover in the bankruptcy action would apply to achieving its $9-million civil claim in Warren County Circuit Court.
A reading of an “Exhibit A1 – the Stipulation” explaining detail of the “Non-Dischargeable Consent Order Judgement” further elaborates that McDonald as “The Debtor waives any right to contest the validity, enforceability, extent, and scope of the terms of the Stipulated Non-Dischargeable Judgment … and waives any right to seek relief from this Stipulation on any grounds” based on any applicable law.
Remaining at issue between the parties appears to be how the EDA will collect that $9-million dollar judgement the parties have agreed to. A number of McDonald-owned properties were frozen by the court early in the civil process, while properties co-owned with other family members were not. Since that order several relatives were named as co-defendants. The “Stipulation” also notes that the EDA-McDonald agreement order “shall not release or discharge any entity other than the Debtor from any liability owed to the Warren EDA” under its Amended Complaint in civil court against all co-defendants.
No ‘Summary Judgement’ against ITFederal
Also, on the EDA vs. McDonald et al. civil action side, on July 14, Harrisonburg-based presiding Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. Albertson dismissed an EDA motion for a “Summary Judgement” ruling against Truc “Curt” Tran’s ITFederal LLC. Plaintiff and defense attorneys made oral arguments on the EDA motion before Albertson on June 10. The bottom line here appears to be that the court has ruled there is not enough substantive information in the plaintiff’s original complaint to rule ITFederal immediately liable for the claim against it.
ITFederal’s $10-million EDA loan to achieve the development of its 30-acre parcel (valued at about $2 million but gifted to ITFederal by the EDA for one dollar) at the Royal Phoenix Business Park/former Avtex Superfund site, with as much as another $2 million in developmental expenses, was the largest single claim in the initial EDA financial scandal civil action.
The EDA alleges that the ITFed loan was achieved under false pretenses as part of the over-arching embezzlement-misappropriation of funds conspiracy allegedly orchestrated by McDonald as EDA executive director after former federal Sixth Congressional District Representative Robert Goodlatte brought Tran here with much ballyhoo for a fall 2016 ITFederal ribbon cutting at the Avtex site. And now the EDA claim against ITFederal, which remains current on its EDA loan payments of about $40,000 a month with an estimated $2 million spent on site, will, unlike the EDA claim against McDonald, continue as a contested part of the EDA’s civil action.
See related EDA meeting, 2018-19 audit story – “Financial Scandal Era Audits near completion as EDA ponders Budget Adjustments”
Legality of Meza council appointment will be re-argued orally third week of September
A date of September 22, at 10:30 a.m. has been set by Warren County Circuit Court Judge William W. Sharp to again hear oral arguments in support of plaintiff (Paul Aldrich) and defense (Jacob Meza, Town of Front Royal) filings on the court’s decision to re-hear a citizen challenge of Meza’s appointment/election to council on January 4th, four days after the term he did not run for reelection to, expired. Plaintiff counsel David Downes was seeking an August date further in front of the November 2nd Special Election to fill the final year of the council seat term vacated by Chris Holloway when he was elected mayor in November 2020, taking office January 1, 2021.
Meza is not running to continue into that final year of Holloway’s old council seat term. With the filing deadline passed, only Warren County Republican Committee Treasurer Amber Morris and Bruce Rappaport, a conservative independent who lost the Republican Committee endorsement to Morris, have filed to be on the ballot in the November Special Election.
Speaking of “elections”, how the term “elected” in Section 47 of the Front Royal Town Charter upon which the plaintiff case is based, is finally interpreted by the court could cast a larger shadow over the judge’s final ruling on the issue. In a letter to plaintiff attorney Downes and defense counsel Heather Bardot dated July 15, Judge Sharpe addresses his promise to resolve the case prior to the November 2, 2021, Special Election to fill the final year of the old Holloway council seat term.
“I intend to keep my word … the citizens of the Town of Front Royal deserve to have this matter resolved,” the judge wrote of that pre-Election Day resolution of the case promise, continuing, “As I have already noted, though the Complaint in this case challenges the validity of Mr. Meza’s office, if the Plaintiff’s position is right, then it is quite possible that the validity of the claims to office of other current council members and the mayor may also be in question.”
A potential impact on the mayor’s or other council members seats stems from initial May 25th hearing discussion on whether the relevant Section 47 wording could be interpreted as preventing elected town officials from running in General Elections for one year after their previous term had expired.
That Section 47 wording is: “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.” (underscore added)
However as previously observed during the May hearing, with an 84-year precedent in place of council members and mayors running for re-election since the 1937 passage of the Town Charter, the likelihood of such a judicial re-interpretation might seem remote. In fact, Downes noted that the plaintiff is not pursuing such an interpretation of the Charter wording, adding that what he termed “a methodical analysis” of relevant historical documents, which he cited as “the Virginia Constitution of 1776, the Virginia House of Delegates Rules of Procedure from 1912, Robert’s Rules of Order from 1915, the Town Charter of 1937” among others “shows that the framers of the charter were clearly addressing an election by councilmen and not a general election by the public.”
In addition to jurisdictional issues and legal standing of the plaintiff to challenge Meza’s “appointment” or “election” by his four Republican Committee colleagues to council on January 4, it continues to be the context of the words “appointed” and “elected” as it applies to council actions in Charter Section 47 around which the case revolves.
Much of the written arguments filed by the two sides in the wake of Judge Sharp’s decision to re-examine and re-hear those arguments, echo points made during the May 25 hearing. As reported in Royal Examiner’s story on that hearing, “Bardot pointed to the absurdity of the Section 47 wording” if it was interpreted to mean council could “appoint” someone who was already a council member to a council seat. So, she asserted that Charter Sections 6D and 9 applied to filling council seats, rather than Section 47.
In her Demurrer filing for dismissal, Bardot pointed to Section 6D wording on filling council vacancies: “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.
Citing the inclusion of the words “appointed or elected” Judge Sharp’s initially ruled that Section 47 applied only to paid staff appointments, not council member appointments. Sharpe said it seemed clear that the Town Charter’s intent, dating to its 1937 adoption, was not to prevent council members from running for re-election for a year. So, the court sided with Bardot’s stance for the defense that Sections 6 and 9 of the Charter were the applicable sections on council appointments, rather than Section 47.
In the first round of oral arguments, as he likely will again on September 22, Downes countered that it was “dangerous to take one word out of context” in trying to decipher the intent of town fathers 84 year ago. The plaintiff counsel argued that the Section 47 wording referred to two distinct and different actions: 1/ appointment to a town staff position while being a council member, or within a year of having been a council member; and 2/ “election” as in acquiring a council majority consensus for reappointment to a council seat within a year of leaving council voluntarily, like Meza by not seeking reelection, or involuntarily, as in being voted out of office by the public.
Some have contended Meza did not run in 2020 because he may have believed he would have lost after a controversial year in office surrounding his employer Valley Health and his flip-flopping on recusals from discussion and votes in authorizing a $60-million County-Town EDA loan to help finance construction of a new hospital without a Maternity Unit.
Plaintiff Paul Aldrich and his counsel contend Meza’s appointment/election by four of his County Republican Committee colleagues (the vote was 4-1) was the very type of political cronyism Section 47 of the Town Charter was designed to prevent.
And so the two legal sides continue to circle and counter the other’s points of contention on jurisdiction, authority of the plaintiff’s challenge and how long-dead town fathers used the English language 84 years ago.
Stay tuned, as a final decision on these issues has been promised by the court before November 2, 2021, one might guess by the end of September or early October at the latest.
Non-fatal Hill Street stabbing report leads to charges against roommate of victim
In the early morning hours of Thursday, July 15, 2021, officers with the Front Royal Police Department responded to a residence in the 400 Block of Hill Street for a report of a stabbing. When officers arrived, they located a male victim, identified as Mario Frazier, who was bleeding from an apparent stab wound to his neck. Frazier provided a statement to officers identifying the offender as 61-year-old Front Royal resident, Anthony “Tony” Herbert. Frazier, who shares a residence with Herbert, stated there was an argument and physical altercation leading to the stabbing. The victim was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for non-life-threatening puncture wounds.
Herbert was quickly located and apprehended by Front Royal Police officers without further incident. Herbert was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he was held without bond on a Malicious Wounding charge. He has a scheduled court date of September 21, 2021, at 10 a.m. in Warren County General District Court.
(From a July 15 FRPD Press Release)
FRPD traffic stop leads to chase, multiple charges against Virginia Avenue resident
On Tuesday evening, July 13, 2021, at approximately 7:50 p.m., a Front Royal Police Department officer observed a red Jeep Liberty speeding on John Marshall Highway. The officer initiated a traffic stop and the driver pulled over to the side of the road.
As the officer began exiting his marked patrol vehicle, the driver of the Jeep Liberty quickly pulled off, driving east on John Marshall Highway towards Linden. The officer pursued, and the driver made an abrupt U-turn near ESA Lane and began traveling back into town. Additional officers from the Front Royal Police Department and Warren County Sheriff’s Office followed the vehicle as the driver continued north onto Commerce Avenue and several other streets until coming to a sudden stop in the 200 block of Virginia Avenue. The driver then fled on foot, where he was apprehended after a short foot chase.
The driver was identified as a 51-year-old Front Royal resident, Otis Lee Allen. Allen was taken into custody and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail without further incident. Allen was released on a $3,000 secured bond with a scheduled court date of August 3, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. in Warren County General District Court.
(From an FRPD release)
Luckey granted $50,000 bond on Circuit Court appeal of J&D Court denial
Following a July 12 bond appeal hearing in Warren County Circuit Court, William Raymond Luckey was released on a secured $50,000 bond at 5:51 p.m. that afternoon, 18 days after his June 25 arrest on charges of “Indecent Liberties” and “Solicitation” of a minor child under the age of 16. Luckey was initially denied bond by Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Nancy Reed on June 30.
However, the 72-year-old, long-time Christendom College professor’s defense team out of Stafford, Virginia appealed that ruling. As noted in Royal Examiner’s July 1 story on that first bond hearing, “Defense attorney Shannon Johnson would not verify an appeal of the bond denial prior to discussion with her co-counsel Thaddeus Furlong. However, comments in the courtroom seemed to indicate an appeal is likely.”
Conditions of Luckey’s bond imposed by Circuit Court Judge William Sharp include that he has “no contact with minors without another adult within sight and sound of them” and “No contact directly or indirectly with the victim or the victim’s parents”; and Luckey is further ordered, “Not to counsel or direct or encourage any effort by anyone else to discourage victim, (the) victim’s parents, or other witnesses from cooperating with the prosecution”. He is also instructed not to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The order forbidding attempts to influence a dropping of the charges addressed Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Samantha Meadows’ concern about the content of recorded phone calls between Luckey at RSW Jail after his arrest and his wife Julie, indicating a possible effort to influence the victim’s parents into dropping the charges, which Meadows noted would be witness tampering, a crime in its own right.
As she had in J&D Court, defense counsel Johnson pointed to her client’s long and respected connections to the community – 35 years total, over 30 at Christendom College – and myriad health issues she argued would be exacerbated by continued incarceration. Those conditions include cardiac problems, high blood pressure, and the consequences of a past back injury. Johnson also contended that specifics in the Commonwealth’s case against Luckey indicate a comparatively mild incident compared to some verbiage included in the “Solicitation” warrant, reflecting the harsher side of sex abuse against minors statutes.
As reported in Royal Examiner’s coverage of the June 30 J&D Court bond hearing, responding to his wife’s taped phone conversation comment “This isn’t what happened” of specific oral or penetrative sexual acts listed in the “Solicitation” warrant, Luckey replied, “No, it doesn’t say ‘Show me your hiney’.” At the initial bond hearing, the prosecution first presented evidence indicating Luckey had offered the child ten dollars to see their posterior, which was declined. However, Meadows asserted prosecution evidence that Luckey had then placed the victim on their stomach in order to see and touch the buttocks, then leaving the ten dollars behind.
Luckey has been removed from Christendom College’s website, where he had been listed as “Professor Emeritus” following his retirement from his regular teaching position five years ago. And the chairman of the board of Padre Pio Academy out of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Front Royal, where both Luckey and his wife had teaching positions, said the school, which is now in summer break, had not expected Dr. Luckey’s return due to his health issues. Julie Luckey was also said to have resigned from all of her involvement with Padre Pio Academy “to minimize negative impacts for the school” from her husband’s arrest.”
A preliminary hearing on the cases is scheduled for August 5, at 10:30 a.m. on the morning docket of Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
WCSO firearm arrest leads to multiple drug charges
On July 4, 2021, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a report that an individual, identified as Eric Anthony Capps, 29-years-old, of Winchester was currently in Warren County and was in possession of a stolen firearm.
During the ensuing investigation, a search warrant was obtained for a location in Warren County. Before executing the search warrant, further investigation revealed that Capps had moved to a second location, also in Warren County. Deputy J.D. Rima located the suspect driving a vehicle on N. Royal Avenue, and a traffic stop was conducted. As a result of the traffic stop, the stolen firearm was located, and a second search warrant was obtained. Both search warrants were then executed, resulting in the location and seizure of the following:
- Approximately 137 grams of methamphetamine (street value of $16,440.00)
- Approximately $2000 U.S. Currency
- Digital scales and packaging material consistent with narcotics sales
Capps was arrested and transported to RSW Regional Jail, where he was charged with the following and held without bond:
- Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute
- Grand Larceny
- Possession of a Stolen Firearm
- Possession of a Firearm while in Possession of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance
- Possession of a Firearm by a Violent Convicted Felon
This investigation was the result of coordinated efforts between the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Intelligence Division, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and members of the community as we continue to combat drug trafficking in Warren County and the Shenandoah Valley.
This incident is another example that highlights the collaboration between the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the community as we aim to protect and serve the public by locating and arresting individuals involved in dangerous criminal activity. Anyone with information related to drug activity in Warren County in encouraged to contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 635-4128.