EDA in Focus
Reporters, sheriff cited in Sayre defamation suit against EDA director
On Friday afternoon, September 21, Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre filed a $25,000 defamation lawsuit against Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald.
The suit filed in Warren County General District Court alleges McDonald utilized Royal Examiner reporter Roger Bianchini, among others, “in attempting to frame Tom” for a June 2017 act of vandalism at her home. Bianchini’s name appears six times in the Sayre suit’s 34-point Bill of Particulars tracing the theory and alleged actions at the lawsuit’s base, while Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw’s name is cited once, as is Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron’s.
The presence of both Bianchini and Shaw’s names in the civil complaint leading to the likelihood they will be called as witnesses complicates Royal Examiner’s coverage of this story. We have decided to proceed with internal interviews regarding the allegations made about Royal Examiner staff involvement in Sayre’s civil filing, with editorial board review of the resulting information to be published under a group Royal Examiner byline.
While Bianchini and Shaw have elected to minimize their public response at this point in time, both made it clear that they dispute Sayre’s allegations about their respective roles in alleged events laying the foundation of Sayre’s civil defamation suit. Elaboration will follow below as appropriate upon approval of the Royal Examiner Editorial Board.
Shaw’s involvement is cited as a late August 2017 telephoned warning to Sayre that he was being set up to be charged in the alleged vandalism incident at McDonald’s home – it is a conversation Shaw told Royal Examiner colleagues she has no recollection of having with Sayre.
Also named in the suit as spreading negative information about Sayre related to an alleged plot to discredit the supervisor is Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron – “On or about August 1, 2017, the Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron told a friend of Tom’s to ‘stay away from Tom Sayre’ because he was ‘trouble’,” Sayre’s filing states.
There is no elaboration on how that alleged warning relates to Sayre’s allegation of a plot to besmirch his name related to inquiries into the EDA’s workforce housing project. However, Sayre presents it as a piece of a puzzle indicating a widespread word-of-mouth effort targeting him as a criminal conspirator in what his suit calls a “faux crime” at McDonald’s home property.
Sayre bases his lawsuit on the idea that McDonald attempted to utilize long-time local reporter Bianchini, among others including it appears the Warren County sheriff, in an attempt to discredit him for past tough questions he asked regarding the EDA’s workforce housing project. According to his lawsuit, Sayre’s tough questioning dates to a joint county board-EDA work session of June 6, 2017, called by Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox.
“Defendant (McDonald) was aware that Tom (as Sayre is described throughout the filing) was continuing to investigate the questionable transaction,” Sayre’s lawsuit states about issues surrounding the workforce housing project.
Perhaps ironically, for at least two months prior to June 6, 2017 when Sayre states his tough questioning on the workforce housing project began, Bianchini was Royal Examiner’s lead reporter in forwarding myriad tough questions about the workforce housing project, including its initially unexplained gifted/non-gifted status involving property previously owned by McDonald’s aunt and uncle, Mr. And Mrs. Walter Campbell; and for as many as seven months prior to June 2017, Bianchini wrote a series of stories forwarding hard questions about the stated parameters of the EDA’s ITFederal project at the Avtex site.
- Workforce housing ‘gift’ is no more – EDA plans purchase instead
- Feds OK ‘Dollar Special’ on first Avtex property sale
- A ‘Perfect Storm’ of silence raises questions about 1st Avtex client
Yet Sayre asserts McDonald chose to utilize a reporter known to ask hard questions about EDA projects to frame him for doing the same.
The toughest question asked by anyone about the workforce housing project – why the property was initially gifted by McDonald’s aunt and uncle, then announced it would have to be purchased by the EDA at an inflated price due to a failure to meet a previously undisclosed developmental deadline – was eventually explained by the August 7, 2017 announcement of the previously-undisclosed involvement of regional developer the Aikens Group. That involvement, according to the EDA dated to a 2014 Aikens Group commitment to purchase the workforce housing property from the Campbells at an agreed-upon price – and is elaborated on in this linked story. EDA unveils ‘silent partner’ in workforce housing project – the Aikens Group
The next tough question, heretofore unasked publicly by Sayre or anyone we are aware of, might be – when is the Aikens Group or anyone going to begin development of what remains a still-unrealized workforce housing project targeting young professionals considering entry-level positions in this community?
But on the alleged defamation of Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre by Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald there is more.
Much of Sayre’s defamation scenario revolves around a criminal misdemeanor charge against McDonald of filing a false police report regarding an alleged stone-throwing vandalism incident at her home on July 15, 2017. McDonald was charged by the Virginia State Police on July 13, 2018, two days before the statute of limitations on filing a misdemeanor warrant in that case expired. A trial date of October 31 has been set in that case.
The misdemeanor case against McDonald revolves around the belief she told a previously unnamed individual about the vandalism incident several hours before it was reported on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Sayre’s lawsuit identifies Bianchini as the unnamed individual McDonald is believed by authorities to have told details of the stone-throwing vandalism at her home several hours before she reported it at 9:02 p.m., Thursday, June 15, 2017.
McDonald’s defamatory statements alleged in Sayre’s filing include her telling Bianchini of a “note” that Sayre’s lawsuit states “she intentionally left in her front yard” that “contained a list of crimes that (McDonald) wanted the police to believe were intended to be committed against her in the future.”
“Defendant confirmed to Mr. Bianchini in this discussion that one of the numbers listed was that of Tom and that she believed that Tom was involved in the crime (Bold in context). Her clear intent in speaking to Mr. Bianchini was to the have the newspaper (grammar in context) disseminate this false information framing Tom for the fictitious crime.”
It is noteworthy considering the above supposition about motive, that Bianchini has never publicly mentioned, nor attached Sayre’s name to any Royal Examiner story regarding any incident or alleged incident at McDonald’s home or anywhere else.
However, Sayre’s civil suit alleges that “defamatory statements regarding Tom were seen or heard by numerous residents of Warren County, including, but not limited to, Mr. Bianchini (and everyone he told), the Sheriff of Warren County (and related police staff of Warren County and the Town of Front Royal), and Greg Drescher.”
Drescher, superintendent of Warren County Public Schools, was at the time chairman of the EDA Board of Directors. Drescher appeared with McDonald at the joint county supervisors-EDA work session of June 6, 2017, during which Sayre asserts questions he asked set the stage for McDonald’s alleged plot to frame him for what he states was a fictitious crime.
As for “everyone he told” about his off-the-record conversations with McDonald about incidents targeting her or EDA property, Bianchini estimates he told very few people – likely single digits – any detail of those conversations; and that they were, for the most part, professional news associates with whom the information was shared in confidence.
Sayre’s suit states, “While Tom was not immediately aware of what the Defendant had done, in the weeks after June 15, 2017, he noticed certain people were beginning to treat him differently, including Greg Drescher – Chair of the EDA.”
The lawsuit does not elaborate on how Drescher, or anyone else for that matter, treated Sayre before or after June 15, 2017.
Sayre cites an August 4, 2017 phone interview with Kenneth Pullen, a private investigator hired by McDonald to look into what she said was happening at her property, as well as a May 18, 2017, EDA office break-in. “Though he was being questioned as if he was a suspect and he had no idea why, Tom candidly answered all questions,” Sayre’s lawsuit states without detailing those questions.
Pain and suffering
As to the punishment of $25,000 Sayre is seeking in defamation damages, the General District Court Clerk’s Office confirmed that is the maximum amount obtainable in a civil filing in that court. In seeking that compensation Sayre cites “reputational harm … since it was clear numerous people in the Town and County had heard about the allegations against Tom” and “that if he was indicted and/or convicted for these crimes he could lose his law license (Sayre has publicly stated that he is currently employed as human resource director at Seton Home School), be unemployable, be removed from the Board (of Supervisors), and he and his family would suffer immensely.
“Tom lost significant sleep, suffered acute anxiety, could not focus at work, sought counseling from his Priest, spent countless hours seeking to clear his name and repair damage to his reputation.”
He said/He said
Bianchini denies that McDonald ever told him she believed Sayre was involved in the alleged vandalism at her home or that Sayre’s phone number was found on a “note” Sayre believes McDonald planted on her own property to implicate him in a staged crime. Bianchini also noted (pun intended) that he has no recollection of ever telling anyone that McDonald told him either of those things.
In fact, Bianchini said he conveyed this information to Sayre in the hallway of the Warren County Government Center following a board of supervisors meeting several months ago when the supervisor inquired about the topic.
“He came up to me and asked what Jennifer McDonald had told me regarding a ‘note’ he believes implicated him and was planted by McDonald on her property. I told him his name was never mentioned to me as a suspect. I gave him a little more detail than I care to go into publicly at this time,” the reporter told his colleagues at Royal Examiner – colleagues who have heard that additional detail in confidence.
Bianchini also said that while McDonald did eventually express suspicions to him about possible suspects, NEITHER of those suspects was Tom Sayre.
Information about the alleged series of incidents at her home were confided to Bianchini as a result of a June 5 conversation about a recent verbal altercation between the reporter and McDonald’s husband, whom Bianchini has considered a friend dating to his sportswriting days covering the Front Royal Men’s Softball League in the early to mid-1990’s. The information was presented as a possible explanation for her husband’s uncharacteristic display of hostility toward the reporter since she explained the alleged trespass incidents at her property usually occurred shortly after one of the reporter’s articles presenting EDA business in a negative light appeared on the Royal Examiner website.
Bianchini notes that McDonald never asked him to alter the tone of or stop writing stories about EDA projects, surmising their publication might eventually help apprehend a suspect.
Now, oddly perhaps, it appears she is that suspect – though exactly how that relates to Sayre’s defamation case remains to be determined.
EDA in Focus
Realigned WC EDA approves internal and external committee appointments, adds marketing costs to FY-2024 budget request
The Front Royal Warren County EDA held its monthly meeting on Friday, March 24, 2023, at 8 a.m. Six Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present. Board Member Rob MacDougall participated remotely.
The regular meeting began with Committee Reports. Board Chair Scott Jenkins referenced the reports attached to the agenda packet and provided updates on recent meetings. The Board approved appointments to the Asset, Finance, Small Business Loan, Avtex, and Workforce Committees. The Board also elected J.D. Walter as its new Vice-Chair and Hayden Ashworth as Assistant Secretary.
Treasurer Jim Wolfe, and Director of Economic Development Joe Petty provided an update on the EDA financial statements and noted that the Board of Supervisors is still reviewing the EDA’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023/24 budget. The EDA Board then approved a motion to add $40,000 for marketing to its budget request.
Under new business, Member Jorie Martin first announced that the next Open-Door Business Session will focus on Workforce and is rescheduled to June with more details to come. The Board then approved a memorandum that uses revenue from a recent lawsuit settlement to reimburse the County as part of a loan agreement.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss potential disposition of real property to business prospects, the small business loan committee applications, and legal consultation on active litigation. Following the closed session, the board approved the appointments of Jennifer Avery, Bryon Biggs, Susan Laurence, and Herbert Melrath to the Small Business Loan Committee. The EDA looks forward to working with them.
The next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Friday, April 28, 2023, at 8 a.m., at the Warren County Government Center.
EDA in Focus
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
Royal Examiner asked several local officials who participated in Thursday evening’s Shenandoah Rail Trail presentation what they thought of the project, the public turnout, and feedback about the project. Front Royal Mayor Lori Cockrell introduced the evening’s event and some Rail Trail Partnership and local officials present for it, including Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. We queried both the town mayor and county economic development director on their perspectives.
“I think the partnership prepared an excellent event. It provided information as well as opportunities to ask questions and share concerns and input. There was a large group of engaged people in attendance. I think I counted between 120-130 people,” Mayor Cockrell began, adding, “I was very encouraged by all the positive feedback I received. I even spoke with people who have previously lived in other communities with rail trails who have moved to our area. They were excited about having an opportunity like this locally.
“I also spoke with people who had concerns because they lived on property that borders the rail corridor. I think they had valid concerns. I connected them with members of the partnership who could gather their concerns and hopefully address them moving forward. That’s what last night was all about, getting the community’s input,” Cockrell concluded of the ongoing process of developing a citizen-friendly project.
County Economic Development Director Petty concurred with the mayor’s overall perception: “I thought the meeting went well and there was a good turnout. I was able to have open conversations with members of the community that are in support, have questions, or concerned with the project; and look forward to continuing those discussions with all of them in the future. I believe meetings similar to last night are important in order to engage with the public,” Petty said of the project’s developmental process.
“I also spoke with individuals regarding the economic impacts as defined in the Economic Impact Analysis, and how we can further highlight and explore the local benefits as well as expand on the regional benefits,” Petty concluded.
Mayor Cockrell concurred on the importance of the Economic Development Analysis:
“One area that was not focused on during the event was the specific numbers that came out of the Economic Impact Analysis. Benefits to our community were shared, but I think if citizens had the opportunity to see actual predicted numbers, actual dollars, they might be even more enthusiastic about the project!” she concluded with an exclamation point by email.
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
EDA in Focus
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
On Thursday evening, March 23rd, representatives of the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership gathered with local municipal officials from the Town of Front Royal and Warren County at the community meeting room of Front Royal Fire & Rescue Company 1 on Commerce Avenue for an informational presentation and community feedback opportunity.
The Shenandoah Rail Trail project would convert abandoned railroad lines to community and tourist-friendly “walking, hiking, jogging, cycling (non-motorized it appears) and more” non-intrusive recreational uses. The proposed project would connect, not only communities from Front Royal/Warren County on its northeast to Broadway in Rockingham County at the south end of the trail, but also sections of each community to each other.
“Up and down the route, the trail connects students to school, employees to work, customers to shops, diners to restaurants, and community members to parks, rivers and historic sites,” a pamphlet available to attendees notes in its summary of the project. Of the planned path, it adds: “The rail corridor, once a community and economic hub of towns from Broadway to Front Royal, has not seen trains as far back as 1989. The tracks are now overgrown and, in some areas, completely unusable.”
The project includes the communities of Front Royal, Strasburg, Woodstock, Tom’s Brook, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Timberville, and Broadway. Of the benefit to the
average Shenandoah Valley citizen of these communities, the Shenandoah Rail Trail group observes that many of the existing trails in National Parks and elsewhere “are remote and, by the nature of the terrain, suited for advanced trail users.
“Our rail trail is flat, primarily rural and scenic, and easily accessed from many towns and neighborhoods. It will be a safe and easy way to get outside to walk, run or roll with family members of all ages and abilities.”
The rail trail group also points to potential economic benefit from realization of the project in improving easily accessible amenities for area citizens – a plus for companies looking to locate in areas that provide “a high quality of life to the folks they employ” — and those folks could include locals recruited by new businesses moving into the valley.
The friendly nature of a flat, scenic walking, hiking and biking trail can also attract regional tourists, expanding the customer base for local shops, restaurants, and other businesses accessible from the rail trail.
Learn more by visiting <shenandoahrailtrail.org>
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
EDA in Focus
Federal Court ruling on McDonald criminal defense motion for change of trial venue may come this week
Update: As of March 14 our information is no decision has yet been rendered by the federal court judge on the McDonald defense motion for a change of venue for criminal trial slated for this mid-May to June.
On Wednesday, March 8th, the first pre-trial motions hearing in the federal 10th Western District of Virginia criminal cases against Jennifer McDonald related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) financial scandal will be held. One might anticipate a ruling by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dalton on McDonald’s defense motion to have the jury trial moved from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville. Other pre-trial motions are scheduled for March 28th and May 4th.
What is anticipated to be a five-week or longer trial on her 34 federal criminal indictments is scheduled to begin May 15, running into June. McDonald faces 16 counts of money laundering, 10 counts of bank fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, the latter related to the Truc “Curt” Tran/ITFederal case.
Federal court-appointed defense counsel for McDonald, Eric Trodden, filed the change of venue for trial last month. He asserts that his client is not likely to get an unbiased jury in Harrisonburg due to Shenandoah Valley regional media reporting about McDonald and other related civil cases in which she was a witness or topic of legal arguments pointing a finger at her alleged role as the central figure in the estimated $26-million financial embezzlement and misappropriation of FR-WC EDA funds scandal.
There have been numerous delays in criminal prosecutions as the EDA criminal cases were moved due to local conflicts of interest or dropped due to speedy trial concerns surrounding the voluminous amount of evidentiary material, now estimated at over a million pages. For the most part, McDonald has been free on bond or out of jail as initial criminal charges were dropped at the state level due to those speedy trial concerns. Those jurisdiction moves were, first, from Warren County’s Commonwealth’s Attorneys Office to Rockingham County’s prosecutors office in Harrisonburg, then to the above-referenced federal district court also in Harrisonburg.
Last year McDonald was indicted on those 34 federal criminal charges related to the FR-WC EDA financial scandal of 2014-18 during her decade tenure as EDA executive director. As previously reported by Royal Examiner and others, EDA attorneys went on a civil case trial winning streak beginning in July of 2022 and ending in October with the initially delayed civil liability trial of McDonald’s husband, Samuel North. EDA counsel won 5 of 5 verdicts of personal liability, 7 of 7, including two related company liability findings in 2 of those cases. Total liability found by those five civil case juries, including compensatory, punitive, and statutory conspiracy findings, amounted to about $14 million. With out-of-court settlements, including a “no-fault” agreement with McDonald for real estate estimated at about a $9-million value, the EDA has, on paper, recovered about $24 million. (See related stories on the Royal Examiner website).
And while the related civil cases were held in Warren County Circuit Court in Front Royal, that local and regional reporting of McDonald’s often given 5th Amendment responses asserting her Constitutional right not to self-incriminate, in addition to EDA attorneys descriptions of her as the orchestrator of an alleged conspiracy to misdirect municipal and EDA assets to her and others personal gain, may have found its way to potential jurors in Harrisonburg is more than likely, her defense counsel asserts. The fact that Charlottesville, while only 11 miles further from Front Royal at 74 miles to Harrisonburg’s 63 miles, is considerably east of Harrisonburg and not part of the Shenandoah Valley-based regional media has largely insulated the Charlottesville community’s potential jury pool from the story, McDonald’s attorney believes. And the slight difference in distance from Front Royal/Warren County will not cause undue hardship on witnesses based in Front Royal and Warren County, McDonald’s attorney argues in his motion for the venue change.
Will the federal judge agree? – Get the popcorn and stay tuned for Wednesday’s pre-trial motions hearing, and we may find out.
EDA in Focus
County’s EDA Board authorizes another confidential settlement agreement at end of monthly meeting review of ongoing projects and opportunities
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, at 8 a.m. All five Board members and the County Director of Economic Development were present at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room. Following a closed session at the meeting’s conclusion, the board approved a resolution accepting another confidential settlement agreement. It is believed the agreement involves multiple civil litigation defendants in the 2014-2018 FR-WC EDA financial scandal cases. The wording of a portion of the motion to accept the confidential agreement states: “WHEREAS, the EDA desires to enter into the confidential settlement agreement with confidential parties providing for a confidential settlement payment to the EDA;”. There was no action on the other closed session topic, “business opportunities”.
As part of the Committee Reports, Board Chair Jeff Browne provided an update on the marketing plan in anticipation of formalizing the path forward at the next meeting. Mr. Browne also gave an overview of the presentation that he and the Director of Economic Development, Joe Petty, provided to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP’s) Business Investment Team earlier this month.
Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, and Joe Petty provided an update on the proposed FY-2023-24 and FY-2024-25 Budgets, and they will be reviewed by the County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 PM.
Secretary, Jorie Martin, gave a recap of the recently held Open-Door Business Session hosted at the Virginia Inland Port on February 23, 2023.
Mr. Petty provided an update on the Department’s recent activities that including meeting with prospects, planning for upcoming regional programs, and presentations at meetings both locally and out-of-town.
As a follow up to old business the County and EDA will continue to move forward on IT (Information Technology) and social media programs that include resolving security and administrative rights to access profiles and data to ensure that all information is secure and up-to-date.
Presented as new business, Jorie Martin and Scott Jenkins provided the Board with a draft Request For Information (RFI) for the Avtex Redevelopment Site. The Board agreed to share the working document with the Town, as well as County, in order to provide additional feedback on the final version. There was also a discussion regarding ongoing work on a financial process Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the EDA and the County to consolidate multiple agreements and clarify the process moving forward.
The next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Friday, March 24, 2023, at 8:00 AM at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room.
(From a release by the FR-WC EDA)
EDA officials, attorneys mum on circumstance of Rappawan/Vaught Jr. civil case dismissal – But a good guess might be…
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has made another out-of-court resolution of part of the civil litigation surrounding the financial scandal alleged to have been orchestrated by former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald between 2014 and 2018. In the wake of a jointly filed motion of December 21, 2022, filed with the court six days later, the EDA’s civil claim against Rappawan Inc. and company official William T. Vaught Jr. was dismissed “with prejudice” – meaning it cannot be refiled.
Vaught Jr. and Rappawan were involved in a 2016 transfer of real estate assets with Jennifer McDonald over a 37 day period in which McDonald, utilizing her DaBoyz real estate company and EDA assets according to the civil action claim, bought a piece of property from Rappawan/Vaught Jr. for $1.9-million dollars, then sold it back to Rappawan/Vaught Jr. 37 days later for $1.3 million, absorbing a $600,000 loss. The EDA alleges McDonald made the transactions with EDA assets and without the knowledge or approval of the EDA Board of Directors.
Royal Examiner contacted what is now the unilaterally Warren County-overseen FR-WC EDA Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne about the December resolution of the Rappawan/Vaught Jr. civil action. Browne explained that as part of that resolution he could not comment on the case dismissal. EDA counsel Cullen Seltzer and Executive Director Joe Petty both confirmed the gag order on details of the EDA/Rappawan/Vaught Jr. joint filing for dismissal of the civil case.
But with the EDA and its contracted Sands-Anderson legal counsels’ 5-for-5 track record in five civil jury findings of liability against 7 other civil case defendants last year, one might hazard a guess the EDA did not agree to the binding dismissal without realizing at least a significant compensatory claim in either real estate or cash as part of that dismissal agreement – let’s take a wild guess, somewhere in the $600,000 range.
In four trials last July and one more in October, five people and two companies were found liable for over $14 million in compensatory, punitive, and statutory conspiracy damages by Warren County civil trial juries. Judge Bruce D. Albertson later dismissed all defendant motions to have the jury verdicts overturned.
Judge notifies involved parties of denial of all defense motions to overturn jury verdicts in EDA civil liability cases
As previously reported, the EDA reached an out-of-court, “no-fault” settlement with McDonald for an estimated $9-million in real estate assets held in her or one of her real estate companies names. It would appear that such out-of-court settlements shield defendants against punitive or statutory conspiracy claims that tacked significant additional financial liability to several defendants in civil case verdicts handed down in July and October 2022.
Delayed civil cases
In other EDA civil court news, attorneys for seven more defendants – three companies and four people associated with those companies – filed a joint motion on January 3rd to have civil trials slated for March 13 continued to a date following Jennifer McDonald’s trial on criminal charges related to the EDA financial scandal. McDonald’s trial on over 30 criminal indictments is now scheduled for as many as five weeks in May-June in the Western District of Virginia federal court in Harrisonburg. Those defendants filing for a continuation were: TLC Settlements LLC and Tracy L. Bowers; Campbell Realty Inc., Jeanette M. Campbell and Walter L. Campbell; Service Title of Front Royal LLC and Victoria L. Williams.
The plaintiff EDA claims those companies involvement in some of McDonald’s real estate transactions utilizing EDA assets it says never received the necessary EDA board authorization led to the unjust enrichment of defendants as part of the conspiracy it alleges McDonald orchestrated to move EDA assets to her own benefit, as well as the benefit of other involved parties. EDA counsel filed a Memorandum in Opposition to those filings for delay in the civil trials of those defendants.
Several defense counsel pointed to McDonald’s past testimony in other related civil trial where the predominance of her testimony was to plead her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination with the criminal cases hanging over her. Should she be acquitted, more forthcoming testimony exonerating their clients might be expected, defense counsels reasoned.
In arguing against the continuance, EDA attorneys noted that the case against these defendants collectively seeking over $4.4-million in damages was filed on April 15, 2020, and all the defendants were served two days later, with the court setting the trial to open March 13, 2023, on June 18, 2020. Plaintiff EDA counsel viewed the motion to continue as a reaction to the EDA’s string of successful civil prosecutions referenced above.
As Royal Examiner as previously reported, including the no-fault out of court settlement with McDonald and the five civil trial verdicts against seven other defendants last July and October, on paper the EDA has been awarded approximately $23 million in liability or settlement findings. And as noted above, with the closing of information on the jointly agreed upon Rappawan/Vaught Jr. civil case dismissal, it remains unknown if that settlement may have raised the compensation which the EDA has achieved in or out of the courtroom into or past the $24-million range.
On February 2nd Judge Albertson removed these civil cases from the March Warren County Circuit Court docket and told attorneys to seek mutually available dates in June for those defendants cases to be heard. Of course, that assumes the oft-delayed and batted from one jurisdiction to another criminal cases against McDonald aren’t once again continued on a motion by her federal court-appointed attorney.
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