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Sayre – McDonald defamation suit continued to September 11

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Happier times for this odd couple – Tom Sayre and Jennifer McDonald during the ITFederal ground breaking ceremony. Social Media Photo

Approaching 6 p.m. after nearly five hours of testimony in Warren County Supervisor Tom Sayre’s defamation of character civil suit against former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald Friday afternoon, Winchester-based Judge Ian Williams continued the trial to September 11 at 1:15 p.m. Sayre attorney Tim Bosson said he anticipated his client testifying for a half hour to 45 minutes that day, with a similar time frame anticipated in cross examination by McDonald attorney Lee Berlik.

Berlik also told the court he may call his client to testify on her own behalf that day. If he so chooses it is likely to result in more testimony than McDonald offered when she was called shortly after 1 p.m. Friday as the first witness for the plaintiff. It seems that the first thing that occurred when McDonald walked out of the RSW Jail on bond after two months in jail on Wednesday was the serving of a witness subpoena on behalf of the plaintiff.

When she was called to testify by Sayre’s attorney, Berlik alerted the court that “any and all questions relating to the EDA” would be met by his client’s right to assert her Fifth Amendment right not to self incriminate.

McDonald and her two real estate LLC’s are named as three of nine human and LLC defendants in the EDA civil litigation seeking recovery of about $20 million in allegedly embezzled or misdirected EDA assets. She is also facing 14 felony criminal charges handed down by the special grand jury empanelled to investigate potential criminality related to the Cherry Bekaert EDA fraud investigation and consequent civil suit filed March 26.

McDonald wasted no time in asserting her Fifth Amendment right. At least five out of the eight questions asked of her were negated by McDonald’s plea of the Fifth. Judge Williams upheld McDonald’s Fifth Amendment responses.

Questions she did respond to included confirming her December 2018 resignation as EDA executive director; an assertion that an old personal assets statement was outdated; and verification that text and email messages dated between June 6 and July 14, 2017 were actual communications between her and Royal Examiner reporter Roger Bianchini. Those texts and emails were introduced as plaintiff’s Exhibits 3 and 4. They were exhibits that would significantly come into play during later testimony.

In asserting the plaintiff’s claim for $25,000 in damages for defamation of character Sayre attorney Tim Bosson called a series of witnesses to illustrate that McDonald had spread the idea of his client’s involvement in both the EDA office break in of May 18, 2017, and a series of trespass and vandalism incidents alleged to be occurring at her home property through May and June of that year.

To a great extent those witnesses and their testimony revolved around the content of a note found at the scene of the vandalism McDonald reported occurring around 9 p.m., Thursday, June 15. According to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigative report, McDonald pointed out a crumpled piece of paper in her yard she indicated was not there earlier in the day when she cleaned her yard.

The note mentions several names and instructions to conduct an effort to terrorize McDonald that appears to include the EDA office break in McDonald reported on May 18, 2017, and continuing through a series of events at her home property. The names “Tom” and “Matt” appear on the note, as well as “the Examiner” where “Norma Jean” was purported to have been waiting for files McDonald reported being stolen during the May 18 EDA office break in about a month before the purported home rock-throwing vandalism.

Two phone numbers of alleged participants in the conspiracy are also present at the bottom of the note. They turned out to be the business numbers of Sayre and former Town Manager Michael Graham.

As they did at McDonald’s 2018 Halloween Day false police report misdemeanor trial, Shaw and Graham both testified they knew nothing of the note or its alleged conspiracy, as Sayre is likely to on September 11. And while Warren County General District Judge W. Dale Houff dismissed the false police report case against McDonald last year, he did observe of the note that “something is made up and something is horribly wrong with this”.

There was also something apparently terribly wrong about a story Royal Examiner reporter Roger Bianchini testified McDonald told him several weeks later about identifying a suspect in the masonry stone vandalism of June 15, 2017. The Royal Examiner reporter said that in late June or early July 2017 McDonald said that while several security cameras on her property had been vandalized during earlier trespasses, one less obtrusive one near her front door had remained in tact.

That camera recorded a facial image of the suspect, whom her private investigator had eventually identified as a petty criminal type and former client of Tom Sayre’s law practice. One of McDonald’s emails to Bianchini, dated July 14, 2017 appeared to verify Bianchini’s testimony.

“He talked with PI and PI has asked him to wire himself and go talk to the culprit. we do not want a he said/she said situation,” McDonald emailed in response to Bianchini’s query, “Anything good to report” about the investigation into the vandalism.

“So he admitted to his own Russia collusion – who is his ‘Putin’ pulling the strings?!!? … and is it a lone wolf or multiple Putins,” Bianchini responded about the masterminds of alleged conspiracy against her.

“He did and multiple putins, but the first putin asked him to do it,” McDonald replies.

“Is the first Putin our photo boy?” Bianchini inquires.

“Yes sir,” McDonald replies ending the e-conversation of July 14, 2017.

On direct examination Bianchini explained the “photo boy” reference related to an earlier, June 11, 2017 text from McDonald: “May have a tip that an elected official is in cahoots with what is happening to me,” McDonald texted.

“Someone I have been trying to find photos of for you,” McDonald added in response to a request for an “off the record” clue as to an identity.

The only person Bianchini said he and McDonald had discussed acquiring a photo of from local newspaper archives dating to 1989-90 was Tom Sayre around the time he arrived in this area sporting what Bianchini described as a radically-different look.

Private Investigator Ken Pullen was asked about McDonald’s representations about a suspect requested to wear a wire on Sayre in discussion about the plot against McDonald. Pullen testified under direct examination by Sayre attorney Bosson that he had initially been hired by the EDA Board of Directors around June 6, 2017 to investigate the EDA office break in. Drescher testified that McDonald asked her board to ask that FRPD be taken off the case because she did not feel comfortable with the direction of their investigation, which appeared to be moving toward the three EDA staffers with access to a key to the office since there was no sign of forced or unforced entry.

Drescher has previously said that the private investigator-driven investigation was eventually turned over to McDonald and encompassed events alleged to be occurring at her home.

Asked about McDonald’s June 11 text to Bianchini that there was evidence “an elected official is in cahoots with what is happening to me” and “No one else knows what is happening this is from my PI,” Pullen stated he had no such evidence.

“You didn’t tell her that?” Bosson asked.

“No,” Pullen replied.

Asked about the alleged effort to have a suspect wear a wire on a co-conspirator Bianchini believed McDonald had identified as Sayre, Pullen said, “No I had not,” adding, “I had no suspect – I did not have anyone wired up.”

If Sayre’s counsel focused on evidence indicating the former EDA executive director had spread his client’s name into the community as a suspect in criminal behavior targeting her, McDonald attorney Lee Berlik took a “no harm, no foul” line with plaintiff witnesses. He argued that the presence of Sayre’s phone number and name on the mysterious note had not meaningfully impacted the Shenandoah District supervisor’s reputation.

Repeatedly he asked plaintiff witnesses what they thought Sayre’s reputation in the community was and had it been damaged by the talk of his phone number’s presence on the note found at the site of the June 15, 2017 vandalism.

A number of witnesses, including Sayre’s fellow Supervisor Archie Fox, former Town Manager Michael Graham whose number was also found on the note, and former Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw said they thought Sayre’s reputation was a good one and not been terribly damaged by the talk of his involvement in a plot against McDonald.

Only Bianchini said he thought Sayre’s reputation varied widely depending on who in the community you talked to. But he also failed to say whether he believed that reputation had been damaged widely by the rumor of his participation in an alleged criminal targeting of McDonald.

Asked how many people he told about McDonald’s contention about Sayre’s number on the conspiracy note, Bianchini estimated five or less – his Royal Examiner associate Norma Jean Shaw and possibly Publisher Mike McCool, Michael Graham because of the (202) number, another local reporter using only the four 7’s as a clue, and a girlfriend to illustrate how crazy his job was getting.

Berlik made a point of noting to those others whose name or phone number was on the note that they had not filed a defamation suit over their being implicated in a fashion similar to Sayre’s.

Only Shaw, who along with “the Examiner” was cited as waiting for allegedly stolen material from the EDA office break in, replied that she had considered filing a defamation suit against
McDonald, but added, “I don’t think she has any more money and it would be a waste of time.”

And now there is a five-week wait for the dramatic conclusion of the first of dueling defamation lawsuits filed by Sayre and McDonald against each other – stay tuned for more developments …

Things continue to get interesting on the EDA and related fronts at the Warren County Courthouse. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

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Crime/Court

Arrest made for Monday evening arson fire

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Warren County, VA – On Monday, October 21, 2019, at approximately 3:00 pm, Warren County Fire and Rescue Services responded to 8561 Winchester Road for a reported residential structure fire.

Units arrived on the scene and found a single story, single family dwelling with significant fire conditions throughout the first floor and attic system of the home. A second alarm was requested, bringing two additional engines from in the county and two additional mutual-aid engines from Middletown and Stephens City. As a result of the incident, crews were assisted by Warren County Sheriff Deputies and the Virginia Department of Transportation with the closure of northbound 522/340, Winchester Road. The road remained closed for approximately 1 hour throughout the incident. It took firefighters approximately 50 minutes to bring the fire under control. There were no reported injuries.

The fire caused an estimated $200,000 in damages and contents loss and displaced the occupants from the home. The occupants have received assistance from the American Red Cross.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Investigators determined the fire was caused by an act of arson. Fire Investigators were joined by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division in a joint investigation. The investigation received assistance from the Town of Front Royal Police Department Criminal Investigations Division and the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office Canine Division.

As a result of the investigation, Ms. Shenisa Mohammed, (21 years of age) who was identified as an occupant of the home, has been charged in connection with the fire incident. Ms. Mohammed has been charged with a single felony count of § 18.2-77; Burning or destroying dwelling house and is being held without bond at the Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren Regional Jail.

Shenisa Mohammed. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Sergeant Daniel Maxfield with the Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-7100 or 540-635-4128.

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Vehicle theft and arson investigation

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Warren County, VA – On Saturday, October 19, 2019, at approximately 6:30 am, Warren County Fire and Rescue units, along with Middletown Fire and Rescue units, were dispatched to the 800 block of Long Meadow Road for a reported motor vehicle crash with the vehicle on fire.

Units arrived on the scene and determined that the vehicle was completely burned and appeared abandoned along the side of the roadway.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Investigators determined the fire was caused by an act of arson. Fire Investigators were joined by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division in a joint investigation.

The vehicle, identified as a 2006 Chevrolet Van, white in color with ladder racks on the roof, was determined to be stolen from the area of Poe’s Campground on Riverside Drive in Front Royal, between the hours of 1:00 am and 5:30 am Saturday morning. A large amount of Milwaukee power tools and tools related to the electrical trade were found to be removed from the vehicle before the fire.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Investigator Scott Baker with the Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-7100 or 540-635-4128.

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Crime/Court

Suspect found in woods and charged thanks to citizens’ help

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Richard Matthew Crouch / Photo courtesy of RSW Jail

On September 29, 2019, at approximately 2:26 pm, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Communication’s received information that wanted subject Richard Matthew Crouch was seen in the 2100 block of Strasburg Road. Deputies responded to the area, and upon arrival, citizens reported that the male had entered the woods. Deputies set up a perimeter and had a K-9 respond to the location. The K-9 track led deputies to Richard Matthew Crouch, and he was taken into custody without incident.

Crouch was transported to RSW Regional Jail and was held without bond on the following charges:

  • Strangle Another Causing Wounding OR Injury (x8)
  • Assault: On Family Member (x2)
  • Malicious Bodily Injury
  • Abduction: By force, ETC, To Deprive of Liberty
  • SCH I/II: POS W/INTNT TO MAN/SELL/DIST

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the citizens of our community for their help, as it was instrumental in the capture of this individual. Contact for this incident is Lieutenant Smoot at 540-635-4128 or via email at ltsmoot@warrencountysheriff.org.

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Crime/Court

Suspects found and charged with Grand Larceny for theft of vehicle

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Derrick Aldine Malone and Dakota Leigh Free. Photos courtesy of RSW Jail.

On September 18, 2019, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the 800 block of John Marshall Highway for a reported larceny of a motor vehicle. The victim alleged that his 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer was stolen from the parking lot of 7-11 after leaving his vehicle running while he went into the store. Witnesses were interviewed on scene who advised they had observed two subjects, one male and one female, get into the vehicle and drive off.

A description of the vehicle and suspects were given to surrounding jurisdictions while the investigation continued. Detectives retrieved video footage from the 7-11 and confirmed witness statements.

On September 22, 2019, Front Royal Police Department received information that the stolen vehicle was possibly parked at the Hampton Inn in Front Royal. When Officers arrived, the vehicle was located parked in the back lot of the hotel and confirmed to be the stolen vehicle from earlier in the week. The vehicle was towed to the Front Royal Police Department to be processed and stored. The suspects were positively identified as Derrick Aldine Malone and Dakota Leigh Free, and both were detained without incident and charged with Grand Larceny for theft of the vehicle. Malone and Free are currently being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail without bond.

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

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Harrisonburg woman pleads guilty to fatal overdose distribution

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HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Iza Mar Rosario-Cruzado, 31, of Harrisonburg, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Rosario-Cruzado further admitted her distribution of this drug mixture resulted in an overdose death. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement following the defendant’s guilty plea.

“Heroin laced with fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our district for the last several years,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to investigate and prosecute cases involving overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable under federal law.”

“This sentence is a great example of our efforts to keep our local communities safe from the spread of drugs. Heroin and fentanyl are extremely deadly substances and those who spread this poison across our cities, acting with blatant disregard for the lives of the people who live here, will not be tolerated,” said Special Against in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Division. “This case is a testament to the hard work DEA and our law enforcement partners do every day to keep these dangerous drugs out of the hands of our loved ones.”

According to court documents entered during yesterday’s hearing, on December 13, 2017, victim M.J.M. was found deceased following a heroin and fentanyl overdose. Investigators determined that the day prior, December 12, 2017, Rosario-Cruzado distributed a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Richard Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently redistributed the same drugs to M.J.M., who ingested them, resulting in his overdose death.

On September 12, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

At sentencing, scheduled for December 17, 2019, Rosario-Cruzado faces between 12-16 years in years in federal prison, as agreed to as part of her plea agreement.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, and Harrisonburg Police Department, with the assistance of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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Maryland man facing multiple charges after I-66 pursuit

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Jeremy M. Carr, 32, help without bond on multiple charges in the RSW jail. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

A Mechanicsville, Maryland man is behind bars for DUI and multiple other charges in three counties after he fled from law enforcement Friday (August 30, 2019).

Virginia State Police have charged Jeremy M. Carr, 32, in Warren, Fauquier, and Prince William counties with three counts reckless driving, three felony counts of eluding police, three counts driving on a suspended license, three counts of unauthorized use of an automobile, three counts of DUI, and three counts wearing a mask to conceal identity.

Also in Warren County, state police charged Carr with one felony count of hit-and-run, one count of failing to obey a traffic light, and one count of passing on a double-solid center line. In Prince William County, Carr was also charged with one count of passing on a double-solid center line.

State police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 7:57 a.m. as a 2010 Ford F-250 was traveling west on Interstate 66 at the 37 mile marker in Prince William County. The violation was for speeding – as the F-250 was driving 93 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.

The Ford continued west on I-66 and entered Fauquier County, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. The Ford F-250 finally pulled over and stopped on Route 340 in Warren County. The driver, Carr, was taken into custody without further incident.

During the course of the pursuit in Warren County, the Ford did strike another vehicle. No one in that vehicle was injured.

No state police troopers were injured in the course of the pursuit.

Carr is being held at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

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