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Solar company named in EDA litigation joins sheriff in denying involvement



What a tangled web – and not just the pattern of access roads stretching into the Royal Phoenix Business Park behind the EDA headquarters at lower central right of photo. File Photos/Roger Bianchini

On Friday, March 29, Earth Right Energy Solar Commercial LLC issued the second statement of denial of any involvement in money laundering, embezzlement or theft of assets related to Jennifer McDonald’s tenure as executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.

Earth Right Energy and its principals Donald Poe and Justin Appleton joined Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron in denying knowledge of the alleged funneling of EDA funds into private sector hands McDonald is accused of facilitating during at least the final three years of her tenure as EDA executive director.

As noted in the civil action, McDonald admitted to liability for $2.7 million in misdirected EDA assets in a letter to EDA attorney Dan Whitten on December 20, 2018, the day she resigned. The EDA civil action notes that while she admitted guilt, McDonald greatly underestimated her actual liability in the December 20 letter. The EDA civil action seeks recovery of lost EDA assets estimated at a minimum of $17.6 million, including a $10-million loan to ITFederal and its principal Truc “Curt” Tran.

Then-EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald pulled double duty as Front Royal Rotary President about three years ago.

The overview of the 199-point civil suit filed Tuesday, March 26, states, “Defendants engaged in a variety of schemes and artifice to unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of the Warren EDA. The schemes, as set out more fully below, related to money unlawfully taken by one or more Defendants related to the following matters …”

Two of those matters are McDonald-controlled real estate companies, DaBoyz and MOVEON8 in which McEathron was listed as a partner; a third was “Unlawful Payments Concerning Earth Right Energy, LLC”. LINK-Sheriff, ITFed principal Tran, Donnie Poe named with McDonald in EDA civil suit

The lawsuit’s elaboration on those matters alleges EDA losses of a minimum of $3,562,100 through McDonald real estate company transactions; and a minimum loss of $945,037 in unauthorized contractual arrangements with Earth Right Energy.

A $27-million contract McDonald is stated to have entered into for the EDA with Earth Right Energy in early September 2018, without the knowledge or approval of her board, for the installation of solar panels on Warren County Public Schools is said to be “unlawfully procured … invalid, and unenforceable” though no money is stated to have changed hands from that contract.

Darn, we really wanted those solar panels, Greg Drescher and Jennifer McDonald may have been thinking – or not …

“Earth Right Energy unequivocally denies any wrongdoing in its relationship with the Economic Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal and the County of Warren, Virginia (“EDA”), and its employees, agents, and representatives. The inaccurate and misleading allegations of impropriety related to Earth Right Energy within the EDA’s lawsuit are totally unfounded and untrue. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our stellar reputation.”

The Strasburg-based company notes it was never contacted during the six-month forensic audit of EDA finances and denies the civil litigation contentions it was paid for work never done or was consciously aware of any wrongdoing on its part.

“For the record, while Earth Right did perform work for the EDA, it did so successfully and completed its contractual obligations. Inexplicably, while numerous issues related to the EDA have reported to have been under audit and investigation, at no time, did anyone contact us with questions or seek clarification about the business history that we had with the EDA. Instead of conducting responsible due diligence and inquiry, the EDA and its Board and representatives elected to file suit.”

The company promises an aggressive defense against any complicity or responsibility for lost EDA assets on its part; and threatens counter litigation.

“Earth Right Energy and its agents have been deeply aggrieved by EDA’s actions and the false allegations made within its lawsuit. We will vindicate our reputation and interests by aggressively litigating this lawsuit and potential countersuit. Any further statements concerning this matter will be made in open court,” the Earth Right Solar statement concludes.

As previously reported, on March 27 the day after the EDA civil filing, Sheriff McEathron released the following statement: “I am in shock of the allegations and want the public to know I have done nothing illegal, either personally or professionally. Those that know me know who I am and what I stand for and that I would never do anything to compromise my position. Keep my family and my office in your prayers as I work my way through this.”

Two days later the Poe-Appleton led solar energy company has joined in denying any knowledge of financial wrongdoing related to its business dealings with the EDA through the former executive director.

So in these early statements of innocence by McDonald’s civil litigation co-defendants we may see an emerging pattern of defense: that those co-defendants – like the EDA Board of Directors, Town and County officials – were in the dark about alleged financial wrongdoing involved in McDonald’s movement of money and EDA contractual assets involving them; and that they, like the EDA board, are victims too.

However according to the litigation the alleged unauthorized and likely illegal financial benefit achieved by those defendants individually or collectively remains unreturned to the EDA.

Madden requests, Athey empanels special grand jury in EDA case

So duped or not, the EDA lawsuit holds those defendants to be civilly liable for whatever financial benefit they realized from those McDonald-driven transactions they were a part of.

With the empanelment of a special grand jury to explore, not only malfeasance surrounding alleged embezzlement of EDA assets, but the potential role of ‘public elected and appointed officials and/or their employees’ of the county, town, sheriff’s office and county public schools, the specter of the Warren County Courthouse is looming large across this community.


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In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box



With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.

The 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse in Harrisonburg, site of the again stalled criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald. Photo 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse website.

As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.

Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.

Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew  William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.

An early 2018 EDA board meeting, before suspicions arose about then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, center-facing camera, movement of EDA assets. EDA board Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs is seated, back to the camera at the far right. Monroe, New York resident Larry Tuttle Sr. testified that he didn’t know Biggs and had never discussed business opportunities with the EDA treasurer despite Tuttle’s name appearing on some financial documents suspected to have been involved in the movement of EDA assets. Royal Examiner File Photo Roger Bianchini

Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”

Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.

Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.

If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.

Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.

William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.

Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.

Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.

Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”

On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.

And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.

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UPDATE 2: ‘Unexpected Circumstance’ Delays McDonald Federal Criminal Trial for rest of week



(Writer’s Update: On Wednesday, Sept. 20, for the second consecutive day the federal criminal trial of former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald was cancelled. This time there was no hearing to discuss reasons or other procedural matters as there was the previous day. One might guess the cause was a continuation of the “unexpected health issue” or “unexpected circumstance” mentioned at hearing the previous day, as reported below. Further information will be reported as it becomes available. And in a later update, the trial has been cancelled for the rest of the week. It is scheduled to resume Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 a.m.)

With 10th Western District of Virginia Federal Court Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon’s 9:30 a.m. arrival, court was convened on schedule Tuesday, September 19, in the criminal trial of Jennifer McDonald related to the estimated $26-million Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” circa 2014 to 2018. As has been reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors offices on August 25, 2021, a federal grand jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments on a variety of charges, including bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft against the former EDA executive director. Those charges relate to the alleged unauthorized transfer of EDA assets to McDonald’s own personal benefit, as well as that of alleged co-conspirators.

But rather than starting the trial on the second day of a week in which it has been forecast the trial could be coming to a fairly rapid conclusion with closing arguments by weeks end, the judge was informed that an unanticipated issue would put the trial on hold that day.

An “unexpected health issue” was referenced by lead prosecutor Sean Welsh as the reason for what apparently will be a one-day delay of the trial. However, defense counsel told the judge that the jury had been told an “unexpected circumstance” would be the reason they would not be needed at court that day. It might be noted that the lone missing person at the prosecution or defense tables during this discussion appeared to be defendant Jennifer McDonald.

In the defendant and jury’s absence several procedural matters were broached for additional discussion. One was review of submitted jury instructions. Another was gaining defense approval of allowing a prosecution witness’s testimony that had been scheduled to be heard Tuesday, to be submitted alternately without the need of her returning the following day from her Virginia Beach home to testify. It was explained her testimony would be fairly brief and was to be introduced to allow a related piece of evidence to be admitted as a prosecution exhibit (why does that sound familiar?). A final matter discussed before court recessed was the possible addition of a third defense witness identified as “James Woods”.

Following the court recess this reporter and another present (see you tomorrow, Alex?) tried to place the name James Woods. All we could come up with was the actor. — Wouldn’t want to miss THAT testimony, “Woods” we?

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A Day in the Federal Criminal Prosecution of Jennifer McDonald



After an unexpected near-testimony adventure to Harrisonburg Federal Court the previous day — “We need you here now!” — on Wednesday, September 13, your humble reporter was called to testify in the third week of the federal criminal prosecution of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Town-County EDA (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft in what has been estimated as a $26-million unauthorized movement and use of EDA assets to the personal benefit of her and alleged co-conspirators.

Actually, it was the fourth week since the trial’s August 21st start. However, the post-Labor Day holiday week of September 5th to 8th was lost to a COVID outbreak among unnamed involved parties. The trial was initially forecast to take six weeks to complete. It might be noted that on September 13, McDonald was the only person with a COVID mask on at the defense table. And no one that I saw on the prosecution side or among the 15 jurors and alternates present wore a mask. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon began the day mask-less, however, after a witness appeared wearing a mask who explained she had recently had COVID, the judge opted for a mask the rest of the day despite two court clerks spraying the witness stand next to the Judge’s seat down with disinfectant following that witnesses’ testimony — better safe than sorry.

As instructed, this witness, thanks to navigator/tag-team driver Paula’s assistance, arrived by 8 a.m. at the Harrisonburg federal court building for the scheduled 8:30 a.m. trial start that day. We then made our way to the third-floor courtroom area, where we settled in hallway seats with other scheduled witnesses as motions arguments were already being heard inside the courtroom.

The 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse in Harrisonburg is where the criminal trial of former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald is being held. Due to ‘complexity’ issues revolving around its over a million pages of documentary evidence, as well as recusal issues in WC, it has passed through 2 state prosecutors offices in Warren and Rockingham Counties before landing on the federal court’s doorstep. A federal grand jury returned 34 criminal indictments against McDonald on August 25, 2021. Photo 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse website

Those motion discussions apparently included a third denial by Judge Dillon of the defense’s attempt to have this witness’s testimony excluded from the trial. That most recent motion was made the previous afternoon as this witness traveled south after being called around 2:45 p.m. by the prosecution’s victim-witness coordinator and told the trial was moving faster than expected and I would be needed to testify prior to adjournment on Tuesday, September 12.

Information garnered from some present through some of those motions filings was that the defense was trying to exclude evidence related to McDonald’s gambling excursions to Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino over a number of years paralleling her alleged misdirection of EDA assets to her own use and benefit. At any rate, the combination of that defense motion and an accident on I-81 southbound a bit north of Harrisonburg that blocked all lanes, leading to a ponderously slow detour on Route 11 around the wreck, led to no testimony from this witness the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12.

During a pre-trial meeting with lead prosecutor Sean Welsh, this witness was informed he would be questioned about his interview (late January 2018) with McDonald and subsequent Royal Examiner article published February 8, 2018, during which the EDA executive director claimed to have won a total of $1.8-million over a three-year period playing the slot machines at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. McDonald asserted it was this cash flow that allowed her to make some high-dollar residential real estate investments through her Da Boyz Real Estate LLC, among other purchases and financial assistance to some family members. It should be noted that as an EDA director, she was not allowed to invest in commercial real estate transactions. See “EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments”

Under direct examination by Welsh, this witness verified the content of the above-linked story and the circumstance of it coming about, along with other details. Those details included recollection of what information was on what McDonald told me were tax receipts issued with her winnings, which she is holding up in a photo accompanying the article.

Photo accompanying this reporter’s Feb. 8, 2018, Royal Examiner story on Jennifer McDonald’s claim of winning $1.8 million in 3 years of slot machine playing at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino, which she said she turned into real estate investments and other personal family expenditures. Royal Examiner File Photos Roger Bianchini

That recollection was that while containing the ID of Hollywood Casino and a variety of numbers, that I could not verify them as or as not the winning tax receipts McDonald asserted them to be. Asked by the prosecution how my professional relationship with McDonald had been leading up to that interview and story, I responded that it had generally been cordial and helpful, dating to her time as an assistant to past EDA Executive Directors Stephen Heavener and Paul Carroll prior to her succeeding them around 2008. I also testified that despite a shared personal skepticism (with my then-Royal Examiner colleague and editor Norma Jean Shaw) about the huge gambling winnings aspect of the story, we decided to publish it as presented and see how it played to the public, including involved parties at the EDA and town and county governments.

And without even a nod “goodbye” from the defense side of the room, I guess because they didn’t want me to testify in the first place, I was released as a witness, meaning at last, I would be able to observe the trial as it progressed from this point forward as my work schedule permitted me to go to Harrisonburg.

And it proved to be an interesting balance of the day in court. Subsequent witnesses called by the prosecution included, in order of appearance following my testimony, Larry Tuttle Sr., the cousin of McDonald’s step-father George Hassenplug; Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr.; McDonald’s aunt Jeanette Campbell, a broker with Campbell Realty/Century 21; Hollywood Casino Risk-Compliance Director Laura Gatto; and Virginia State Police Investigator Brad Gregor. I will begin my description of the testimony of these witnesses with Hollywood Casino’s Laura Gatto, as it relates most directly to my above-referenced testimony.

On direct examination, Gatto explained “player records” kept through what she termed “player cards” with which the casino tracks the gambling efforts, wins and losses, including money in/money out on slot machines. She also noted the casino would not pay out jackpots — wins over $1200 — if someone is using another person’s player card. And while on cross-examination defense counsel would attempt to demean the accuracy of these tracking systems, Gatto responded by noting that while not given to be used by casino players to report their tax payments and debt, the casino itself uses these records as a tool to build its business model and in recording its tax responsibilities.

Back on direct examination, Gatto said that McDonald reached the level of “Icon Player” on the slots. And if I got the numbers right, and they were big ones, Gatto stated that Hollywood Casino’s player records indicated that in the period from 2014 to 2018 on the house slot machines, Jennifer McDonald cashed out $17,059,450.25 while cashing in $21,778,337.46. That is over a $4.7 million deficit of playing versus winning, $4,718,887.21, to be exact. And if I am interpreting these numbers correctly, it would seem to indicate that while there may have been points where McDonald was on the plus side, perhaps even significantly, it would seem unlikely that she would have been plus $1.8 million in late January 2018. That is because to come out $4.7 million on the downside at the end of 2018, she would have had to hit an 11-month losing streak totaling over $6.5 million. Now, I’m a word guy, not a numbers guy, but even I can see that’s an exceptionally bad slide, especially for an “Icon Player.” But I guess there’s a reason they call them “one-armed bandits.”

I will note here that three of the other four prosecution witnesses I saw testify, Larry Tuttle Sr., McDonald’s stepfather’s cousin; Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr.; and McDonald’s aunt, Campbell Realty broker Jeanette Campbell, testified as to their knowledge or lack thereof, and participation in real estate transactions, particularly one on Buck Mountain Road (see more below), related to the alleged misdirection of EDA assets to the defendant’s personal use or benefit. I hope to recount more of that testimony, as time and unfolding trial events allow, in a future story.

State Police interview into evidence

Following a lunch break, VSP Investigator Brad Gregor was called to the stand to comment on a two-hour videotaped interview he did with McDonald on December 19, 2018, the day before she resigned by email as the EDA Board of Directors met in Closed/Executive Session to discuss her future with the EDA. That video was introduced as Prosecution Exhibit 531-A, with its transcript introduced as Exhibit 532 (that is a lot of exhibits, and who knows how many pages each exhibit may be). During Gregor’s testimony, amidst the prosecution’s playing of the video of the interview, it was noted that McDonald had requested a meeting with the State Police in response to some allegations about her financial activities being circulated through social media and elsewhere. Kristie Atwood’s name was mentioned during Gregor’s testimony.

The FBI and VSP, in April 2019, during a search for potential evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the EDA Kendrick Ln. office, including Jennifer McDonald’s former office, which had been sealed off as a potential crime scene with her seized and locked down work computer since her Dec. 20, 2018, resignation under investigative pressure.

What McDonald didn’t know at the time was that in response to that same information being in the public domain, as well as Virginia State Police hands, VSP had launched an investigation into her financial affairs. And it was Gregor, a white-collar crime expert of 10 years with VSP after retiring from 29 years with the FBI, who was assigned to head that VSP investigation. Particularly through opening portions of the interview, one can see Gregor leading McDonald into explanations of her financial role and authority at the EDA versus her targeted discussion of why she thought she was being scapegoated by her board and others for what she asserted were group decisions on financial transactions that suddenly her board of directors had “forgotten” they had authorized.

The issue of two EDA signatures, including a board representative’s along with hers, being required procedurally by the EDA on financial transactions was referenced by McDonald in the video interview with Gregor. That dual signature defense claim has led to prosecutorial counterclaims of forged signatures, including during early hearings when the case was still at the state level. The federal indictment on aggravated identity theft would indicate that it would be re-raised at this trial in at least one situation, believed to be a claim by ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran regarding his signature appearing in one of McDonald’s real estate transactions. I believe it likely that would be the one involving all three witnesses heard earlier on September 13, Larry Tuttle Sr., Rappawan Vice-President William Vaught Jr., and Jeanette Campbell, regarding the Buck Mountain Road property bought and sold within about a month at a $600,000 loss.

That EDA board closed session scheduled for December 20, 2018, the day after the Gregor-McDonald interview, was called in the wake of increasing municipal and EDA scrutiny through 2018 about some of McDonald’s financial activities, including those personal real estate transactions involving the cash she claimed to have won through her Hollywood Casino slot machine activities. It was anticipated that her board would terminate her out of that Executive Session. In fact, McDonald told Gregor during that videotaped interview that she anticipated losing her job the next day due at least in part to then Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley turning her EDA board against her in retaliation for what she claimed was sexual harassment she was enduring from Stanley and another member or two of the community at the time. Stanley was one of the prosecution’s first witnesses in this trial, and his cross-examination reportedly one of the most, if not the most, explosive points of the trial. And darn, I missed it because I was on the far side of the prosecution’s witness list.

The EDA financial scandal has led to multiple civil court cases, with a string of liability convictions, appeals of some of those liability jury findings, and out-of-court settlements surrounding the estimated $ 26 million dollars alleged to have been moved illegally by McDonald and alleged co-conspirators to her and their personal benefit. McDonald herself settled out of civil court with the EDA, sending an estimated $9 million of real estate assets to the EDA under a “no-fault” settlement agreement in which she admitted no wrongdoing in acquiring those assets.

See Royal Examiner’s “EDA in FOCUS” NEWS section archives dating to the Examiner’s founding year of 2016 for further details – and a chronology of events.

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From Economic Pinnacle to Courtroom Spotlight: Jennifer McDonald’s $26-Million Scandal Unfolds – Day 9



Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Shining Star Faces Allegations of Massive Fraud.

For those who’ve watched Jennifer McDonald’s meteoric rise in the economic circles of Front Royal-Warren County, the news was nothing short of a shock. The woman once celebrated for her dynamic contribution to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) now finds herself entangled in a complex web of accusations amounting to a mind-boggling $26 million fraud.

The scene is set in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where the courtroom of the U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald case has been buzzing with activity. For nine court days, riveted attendees have heard testimonies that swing the pendulum of public opinion with each passing hour. Day 9 especially stood out. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon presided over an intense session that spanned from daybreak to dusk. Key witnesses like Robert Boyd, Katrina Gochenour, and SA Justin Hasty gave their accounts, each narrative serving as a piece in the intricate puzzle that determines McDonald’s fate.

However, a significant twist arose when McDonald moved to exclude certain testimonies, particularly one from Roger Bianchini, a reporter with the Royal Examiner newspaper. McDonald’s primary contention revolves around an article Bianchini penned detailing her claims of slot machine winnings at the Hollywood Casino. McDonald showed Bianchini tax receipts as proof of her so-called success. While the government perceives this as pivotal evidence, McDonald’s legal team argues otherwise. They claim the article and testimonies based on it could derail the trial’s trajectory, casting shadows where clarity is sought. Ruling coming soon.

The trial’s continuation on 9/12/2023 promises more revelations and perhaps a step closer to unraveling the truth. For now, a community waits with bated breath, hoping the scales of justice will balance out, shedding light on a controversy that has overshadowed one of its most prominent figures.


EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments

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The Marathon Continues: A Deep Dive into Days 6-8 of U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald



Witness Testimonies Pile Up as the Government Sustains its Case.

The U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald trial in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has steadily unfolded over a span of eight days, featuring a multitude of witnesses and exhaustive presentations from the prosecution. For those following the riveting courtroom drama, it’s evident that the government is doubling down on its evidence against the defendant, Jennifer Rae McDonald, who remains on bond.

Day 6: Seven Hours, Seven Witnesses
Day 6 kicked off with Katrina Gochenour resuming her testimony, followed by an array of witnesses, including Kevin Nicholson, Robert Boyd, Alan Omar, John Reno, Timothy Ivan Kelsey, and Steve Duke. Each provided unique insights into the case at hand, substantiating the government’s narrative. The day concluded after a grueling 7 hours and 14 minutes in court, leaving onlookers pondering what would follow in the subsequent hearings.

Day 7: Fresh Faces, Familiar Narrative
Day 7 saw FBI Special Agent Steve Duke continue his testimony, along with new witnesses, including Elain Kinsey, Desiree Scott, Tracy Bowers, Christina “Christy” Grady, Tricia Dorsey, and Heather Clatterbuck. These testimonies maintained the prosecution’s momentum, reinforcing the government’s case.

Day 8: Short and Sharp
While Day 8 was shorter, clocking at just 1 hour and 20 minutes, it was no less impactful. Presided over by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon, the day featured three witnesses: Debra Morfit, Kathy Whittington, and Eugene Gorlik. Each had their own contributions to the government’s ever-expanding case, leading many to wonder how the defense would counteract in the upcoming sessions.

The complexity of the case and the volume of evidence presented give no indication of a speedy resolution. Judge Dillon confirmed that the trial will resume at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 5th, 2023.

The U.S. v. Jennifer Rae McDonald trial, unfolding in the Western District of Virginia, is proving to be a marathon, not a sprint. With the government fielding an extensive list of witnesses and working meticulously to build its case, the outcome is anybody’s guess. As the defendant remains on bond, the jury, the legal teams, and the public can only wait and watch as the case evolves. All eyes will undoubtedly be on the courtroom when proceedings resume next week.

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Legal Tug-of-War: Cross-Examination Rights and Relevance in U.S. v. McDonald, Day 5 continued



A Deep Dive into the Controversial Courtroom Dynamics of the Jennifer Rae McDonald Trial.

The courtroom is no stranger to drama, but the ongoing trial of Jennifer Rae McDonald, prosecuted by the United States in the Western District of Virginia, has elevated that tension into an intense discourse on the role and limits of cross-examination in the American legal system. At the eye of this storm is Doug Stanley, a government witness whose testimony has been a lightning rod for debates on witness credibility, prosecutorial overreach, and the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

In recent developments, defense counsel sought to question Mr. Stanley on allegations related to sexual harassment and/or assault. The government objected, stating that there was “absolutely no basis for these questions,” further questioning their relevance. This has led to a renewed focus on the critical role of cross-examination in the American judicial system.

The Supreme Court in Alford v. United States stated that cross-examination is a “matter of right” and further described it in Davis v. Alaska as a means by which “the believability of a witness is subject to exploration at trial.” So when the government seeks to limit this aspect of the trial process, it’s bound to draw scrutiny not only from legal experts but from anyone concerned with the concept of fair trials.

The defense argues that they have a good faith basis for the questions. McDonald, the defendant, had previously made allegations against someone in Warren County and a judge, as well as against Doug Stanley. She had filed grievances and described a deteriorating situation, thereby giving the defense grounds for their line of questioning. It should be noted that having a “well-reasoned suspicion” suffices for establishing a good faith basis, as per United States v. Sampol.

The second pillar of the defense’s argument is that the government itself “opened the door” to these questions. During the trial, the prosecution made an effort to introduce evidence of a sexual assault/harassment settlement agreement, thereby inviting further scrutiny into related matters.

Lastly, the defense argued that these questions are not just window dressing; they are relevant. If the government plans to introduce a sexual assault settlement agreement into evidence, as they’ve stated, then any evidence of sexual assault or harassment becomes relevant under the Federal Rules of Evidence 401.

The objection raised by the government against the cross-examination of Doug Stanley touches upon broader, often murky issues related to the limitations of prosecutorial discretion and the rights of a defendant. It brings to focus the balancing act courts must perform between the need for an unbiased trial and protecting the rights of all parties involved. As the trial of Jennifer Rae McDonald progresses, it will serve as a real-time case study for law students, scholars, and citizens alike who are concerned with the fairness and integrity of the American judicial system.

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