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Removal Petition hearing on County Board continued to December

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An as-yet undetermined date in December was set for the continuation of a hearing on the citizen-launched Removal Petition against the five sitting Warren County Supervisors. The hearing was on the Warren County Circuit Court docket Friday morning, November 22, at 8:45 a.m.

Judge Bruce D. Albertson heard motions and the reasoning for the continuance by video hook up from his home courtroom base in Harrisonburg. When a suggested date of December 6, when Albertson will be in court on EDA-related criminal hearings, did not work for one of the two defense attorneys, James Cornwell, the judge said he would like a specific December date agree upon within two working days.

As he had the previous day during hearings on EDA-related criminal charges, Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton notified the court of his intention to remove himself from EDA prosecutions with a newly-elected Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell slated to take over at the turn of the year, prior to any EDA-related trials getting under way. And with Bell planning to recuse himself from EDA prosecutions to assure there is not even a perception of possible conflicts of interest that might impact future EDA legal proceedings, Layton suggested that despite his desire to continue with the EDA cases, that they, like yesterday’s criminal cases, be turned over to the office of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst.

Rockingham Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Parker appears poised to take on the bulk of cases Layton has been working, along with the EDA Special Grand Jury investigation. Layton again noted Parker needed time to get up to speed on the background of the various cases he is taking on.

See you again in December – primary motions arguments on the Removal Petition targeting the WC Board of Supervisors will be heard on an as-yet determined December date following Friday’s continuation. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Defense co-counsel Cornwell and Acting County Attorney Jason Ham had no objection, by remote phone hook up, to Layton’s call for the continuance of the Removal Petition hearing.

During Friday’s hearing it was reported that notice of certification of the required amount of signatures had been received from Warren County Voter Registrar Carol Tobin. That certification, which came despite the loss of 107 signatures that could not be verified as registered county voters, allows the Petition for Removal from office of the supervisors to proceed.

The filing required a minimum of 10% of the number of registered county voters who voted in the last election. That number is cited as 6,958, requiring a total of 696 countywide. Even with the 107 lost signatures, the petition contained 835 verified signatures.

The petition was filed October 18 as part of the grass roots public reaction to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial scandal that has led to a number of dueling civil litigations surrounding the EDA’s attempt to recover $21.3 million dollars in allegedly misdirected or embezzled EDA assets. The EDA civil litigation alone has already cost the County and its taxpayers $1.31 million dollars in legal and investigative financial audit costs.

And with a $750,000 cap on attorney’s fees payable to the Sands Anderson law firm of Richmond removed by the supervisors on Tuesday, that number is anticipated to keep climbing over the coming year or more as the civil cases proceed and what is anticipated to eventually be in the neighborhood of a million pages of related documentation is submitted for those civil, and related criminal, cases.

The Removal Petition contends the County’s elected Supervisors were directly negligent and in dereliction of their official duties in allowing the alleged EDA financial embezzlements to develop under their indirect stewardship since at least 2014-15.

After the Front Royal Town Council voluntarily abdicated certain oversight functions several years ago when the County took over the Town’s operational funding of the EDA, the County Board alone now appoints EDA Board of Director members. It is those appointed members of the quasi-governmental EDA that have direct oversight authority of EDA staff, a defense motions filing in the Removal Petition case states.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton, left, with FBI and VSP during April 16 search of EDA offices. Leaving the office in January, Layton is fazing himself out of EDA cases and Commonwealth’s Attorney-Elect John Bell is recusing from them. So the Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will take over those prosecutions.

The Removal Petition cites the board members’ three misdemeanor criminal indictments on misfeasance and nonfeasance charges filed September 20 as one primary legal basis of the recall. Those charges targeted the supervisors, along with current and former EDA board members, for an absence of due diligent oversight of the actions of former Warren County Economic Development Executive Director Jennifer McDonald in the final four months of 2018.

However, the fact those indictments were dismissed by Judge Albertson as non-criminal by Virginia Statutes, even dating to English Common Law under which they were filed, may complicate the petitioners’ argument.

Just two days before Friday’s hearing defense co-counsel Cornwell and Ham filed a Demurer with the court seeking dismissal of the petition. Grounds cited for dismissal include a lack of jurisdiction for the filing; a lack of legal authority for the supervisors to act directly to limit the activities of EDA staff; and “Legislative Immunity” precluding the Judicial Branch of State Government from a “quasi-criminal” investigation of a Legislative body such as the county supervisors regarding how they conduct their business.

It would appear that while the timing of the defense Demurrer filing might have precluded proceeding with arguments Friday, a December hearing date could see arguments on these crucial legal points of contention.

On October 28, Judge Albertson denied a petitioner’s motion to immediately remove the five sitting supervisors prior to any arguments on the legal dynamics of the Removal Petition.

Warren County’s incumbent supervisors continue to await a decision on a citizen-filed Removal Petition – for three of them it will soon be a moot point.

 

Targeted by the Removal Petition are Daniel J. Murray of the North River District, Thomas H. Sayre of the Shenandoah District, Tony F. Carter of the Happy Creek District, Archie A. Fox of the Fork District, and Linda Glavis of the South River District. As of the turn of the year in the wake of Murray and Glavis’s retirements and Sayre’s defeat at the polls in November, only Carter and Fox will be impacted by the Removal action.

See Related Stories:

County Supervisors removal petition filed with 941 signatures

County officials, EDA board members have good day in court – will it last?

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man arrested on robbery and weapons charges

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D’Andre Lawrence. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

Early this morning, D’Andre Lawrence was arrested on felony robbery and weapons charges stemming from an early morning incident at the Blue Ridge Motel. Front Royal Police were called at approximately 1:30am to respond to an alleged robbery that had occurred at the local motel. The victim alleged that two individuals assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of money and ran in the direction of Massanutten Avenue.

Lawrence was arrested on the mentioned charges and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond. The second individual in this incident was identified as a male juvenile and is wanted for questioning.

Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Z. King at 540-636-2208 or by email at zking@frontroyalva.com.

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Virginia State Police concludes investigation into inmate death at New River Regional Jail

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The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Wytheville Field Office has concluded its investigation into the September 2019 death of an inmate at the New River Valley Regional Jail. The case is closed and no charges will be placed in accordance with the findings of the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke and at the advisement of the City of Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney and Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

The investigation was conducted at the request of the New River Valley Regional Jail. On the evening of September 11, 2019, Radford University Police responded to a call at a campus facility concerning Aris Eduardo Lobo-Perez, 18, of Culpeper, Virginia. Police took him into custody shortly before midnight on a charge of public intoxication. As is standard procedure, Lobo-Perez was transported by the arresting agency to New River Valley Regional Jail in Pulaski County.

At approximately 7:20 a.m. on September 12, 2019, jail personnel approached Lobo-Perez to offer him breakfast, which he declined. It was at 7:50 a.m. that jail personnel found Lobo-Perez unresponsive in his cell. Despite the immediate efforts by jail personnel to resuscitate the inmate, Lobo-Perez was declared deceased at the jail. His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for examination and autopsy.

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Fugitive since 2015 arrested

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During the course of a preliminary investigation, Detective M.R. Ramey obtained credible information regarding the location of a wanted fugitive out of Prince George County, VA. With the assistance of the United States Marshal’s Service and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Derek S. Vrable, 34, was arrested without incident at a residence located in Warren County this afternoon. The underlying charges for this arrest were for Grand Larceny and Breaking and Entering. Vrable has been wanted on this violation since 2015.

Derek S. Vrable, 34, was arrested without incident at a residence located in Warren County.

 

Derek Vrable was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service and transported to the RSW Regional Jail by Warren County Sheriff’s Office where he is currently being held without bond. Other charges may be forthcoming in the near future regarding the initial criminal investigation. No further details are available in this case due to the pending nature of the active investigation.

The Front Royal Police Department would like to extend our thanks to the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in apprehending this individual.

Anyone who may have further information regarding this case is asked to please contact Detective M.R. Ramey at 540-636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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School bus driver arrested and charged with kidnapping and abduction

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On March 4, 2020, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office received notice from the Warren County Middle School that a 13-year-old female student has made comments alleging an adult male bus driver has made inappropriate comments and advances toward her.

The school notified the School Resource Officer, and Warren County Sheriff’s Office Investigators arrived and contacted the victim’s parents and interviewed the young girl. WCSO Investigators located the alleged offender at his home. Agosto Andres Luzunaris, age 42 of Linden, Virginia, was arrested and charged with one count of Kidnapping and Abduction (class 5 felony) that occurred on or about December 2019 through March 2020. Luzunaris is currently being held without bond at the RSW Jail in Front Royal.

Agosto Andres Luzunaris, age 42 of Linden, Virginia, was arrested and charged with one count of Kidnapping and Abduction (class 5 felony). Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

 

WCSO says the investigation is ongoing; however, it has been reasonably determined there was no risk of harm to other children, and this was determined to be a localized incident. There were no complaints of physical damage to the victim, and the charges stem from allegations that the offender made inappropriate comments and physically restricted the movement of the victim on the school bus.

Melody Sheppard, Interim Superintendent, Warren County Public Schools responded, “Our primary concern is always the physical and emotional well-being of our students. Warren County Public Schools will continue to support the Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigation.”

 

Code of Virginia

§ 18.2-47. Abduction and kidnapping defined; punishment.

A. Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to his charge, shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.”

B. Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to subject him to forced labor or services shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.” For purposes of this subsection, the term “intimidation” shall include destroying, concealing, confiscating, withholding, or threatening to withhold a passport, immigration document, or other governmental identification or threatening to report another as being illegally present in the United States.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duty. The terms “abduction” and “kidnapping” shall be synonymous in this Code. Abduction for which no punishment is otherwise prescribed shall be punished as a Class 5 felony.

D. If an offense under subsection A is committed by the parent of the person abducted and punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending, the offense shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor in addition to being punishable as contempt of court. However, such offense, if committed by the parent of the person abducted and punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending and the person abducted is removed from the Commonwealth by the abducting parent, shall be a Class 6 felony in addition to being punishable as contempt of court.

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Harrisonburg man charged following Loudoun County pursuit and shooting

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A Harrisonburg, Virginia, man faces multiple charges following a pursuit and a non-fatal officer-involved shooting Thursday evening (Feb. 27, 2020) in Loudoun County. Michael E. Bonner, 54, was released from Reston Hospital Center Friday afternoon (Feb. 28, 2020) and taken in state police custody. He has been charged in Loudoun County with grand larceny of a vehicle, eluding police, hit and run, driving without a driver’s license and unauthorized use of a stolen vehicle, and is being held at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center.

Michael Bonner – Courtesy Photo/Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

The incident began at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 27, 2020) when a 2017 Ford Escape passed a Virginia State Police trooper as they were traveling east on Route 50 in Loudoun County. The trooper’s license plate reader alerted the trooper that the Ford had been reported stolen out of Fairfax County. The trooper attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the Ford refused to stop and sped away on Route 50 near Tall Cedars Parkway. During the course of the pursuit, the Ford Escape reached speeds of up to 100 mph and rammed two state police vehicles that were attempting to contain the fleeing vehicle in order to bring it to a stop.

State police again surrounded the suspect vehicle and forced it to a stop on South Sterling Boulevard near Shaw Road in Loudoun County. During the course of engaging with the pursuit suspect in order to take him into custody, Bonner was shot at by state police. Bonner was transported to Reston Hospital Center for treatment of the non-life threatening injury.

The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office responded to the scene to investigate the officer-involved shooting, which remains under investigation at this time. Once the investigation is completed, state police will turn its findings over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review and adjudication.

No law enforcement personnel were injured in the incident, which remains under investigation at this time. In accordance with Department policy, the trooper involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave.

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Front Royal man arrested and charged for felony eluding and reckless driving

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On February 25, 2020, Front Royal Police Officer J. Treese attempted to conduct a traffic stop at approximately 8:30pm on a 2013 Chevy Corvette that was traveling at a high rate of speed in the 1400 block of N. Royal Avenue. The vehicle did not display a license plate and when the officer activated his emergency lights, the vehicle failed to yield, and a pursuit was initiated. The pursuit continued through several jurisdictions to include Warren County, Shenandoah County, Strasburg and Frederick County.

Front Royal officers discontinued the pursuit; however, the pursuit was re-initiated by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police while on I-81. The vehicle stopped in Clarke County, where the driver fled from the vehicle on foot. The area was searched by Frederick and Clarke County deputies and the Virginia State Police; however, the driver was not located.

With the assistance of Upper Pottsgrove Township Police Department located in Pennsylvania, Front Royal Police has identified the driver as William Watson Allen IV. Charges were obtained on Allen for Felony Eluding and Reckless Driving. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office arrested William Watson Allen IV this morning just over the West Virginia state line. Allen was transported to the Eastern Regional Jail. Other charges may be forthcoming in this matter.

William Watson Allen IV. Photo courtesy of Front Royal Police Department.

Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Ramey at 540-636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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Upcoming Events

Apr
2
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 2 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
12:00 pm LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
Apr 2 @ 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
LFCC Workforce Solutions recognizes the challenges companies are facing as most workers are forced to temporarily work from home. That’s why it has developed this FREE live webinar “5 Ways to Support Employees During this[...]
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 2 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
3
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr 3 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 3 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
4
Sat
8:00 am Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Apr 4 @ 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Spring is approaching, and Troop 53 is preparing for their annual mulch fundraiser. The funds raised will help support troop activities and send our Boy Scouts to summer camp, where they learn valuable skills in[...]
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 4 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
7
Tue
10:00 am Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Apr 7 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Focus on Health Employment & Education Fair @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Two sessions: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Different vendors at each session. Held in the Science and Health Professions Building at LFCC’s Middletown Campus. Contact Taylor Luther for more[...]
4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 7 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, March 17 –  Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! This[...]
Apr
8
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 8 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]