It was somewhat of a mixed message handed down by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. following nearly three days of a motions hearing on the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority civil litigation. That litigation seeks recovery of a minimum total of $17.6 million from nine defendants – kind of like the federal Mueller indictments from the Russia probe, a mix of human and corporate entities.
At primary issue was a plaintiff request to freeze $3.56 million dollars in assets of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. EDA lead attorney Cullen Seltzer noted that in the wake of information from the previous day that requested levy had been reduced to $3.17 million dollars. Seltzer apparently was referencing McDonald defense attorney Jay McDannell’s assertion from his client that two real estate parcels in possession of McDonald real estate companies were being held in “a constructive trust” on behalf of the EDA.
That assertion goes to the heart of the defense presented on McDonald’s behalf during the motions hearing, which may be a clue to her defense at trial. That defense, addressed by McDannell during his closing argument Friday afternoon, is that his client may have misinterpreted exactly how much authority to initiate real estate transactions on the EDA’s behalf her board had granted her.
Testimony from several current and former EDA board members Friday indicated that the amount of trust and confidence they had placed in their executive director often led to initiatives being undertaken and reported and/or approved later as necessary.
However, several of those EDA board members also testified they had never authorized the executive director to unilaterally transfer the large amounts of money involved in some of the real estate transactions in question.
Simple misunderstanding with a laissez-faire board of directors or something more nefarious? Stay tuned as the case moves toward a July 17 hearing.
As for the court’s motions ruling of Friday, May 31, as he hinted he would during the hearing, after closing arguments Athey granted the plaintiff request for a freezing of real estate or bank accounts under sole control of McDonald or her two real estate companies, while leaving those she owns jointly with her husband or parents unattached as potential collateral against damages being sought.
That same principal was used by Athey in attaching levies on a number of automobiles – those jointly owned with relatives were not attached, while those in her name alone were.
In addressing the bank account issue the judge said he thought it important to leave McDonald, who as of May 24 is charged with four felony criminal counts related to the civil litigation, access to personal resources with which to present a defense against the charges against her.
In approaching his ruling on specific McDonald, DaBoyz and MoveOn8 LLC assets, the judge went through the specific EDA projects cited in the plaintiff response to the defense demurrers and motions. Athey noted that such hearings place the court in a difficult position because it faces what is essentially a mini-trial before discovery and all relevant evidence is before it.
After ruling the plaintiff had met the initial burden proving the basic validity of its complaint with the adjustments made in response to the initial defense motions for added specificity, Judge Athey moved through each EDA project cited to have been involved in embezzlement or misdirection of its assets:
- Workforce Housing – plaintiff likely to succeed in presenting its case.
- Afton Inn – not enough evidence yet presented by plaintiff, not included in determining judgment.
- Skyline Criminal Justice Training Academy – likely to succeed, included.
- ITFederal $10 million loan – not likely to succeed, not included.
- Earth Right Energy contracts – cannot find evidence likely to succeed at this juncture, not included.
- Unlawful Town, County funds to McDonald-owned/controlled real estate – likely to succeed, included.
- As to the specific involved real estate, the judge did not include in the plaintiff attachment McDonald and her husband’s Faith Way Drive home, her mother’s home or a day care property.
- Properties attached against movement included 1321 Happy Creek Road and 2951 Rileyville Road in Page County.
Athey noted that he would not likely preside at the next hearing in the case on July 17 due to his September 1 departure for a seat on the Virginia Appeals Court. To accommodate the judge who takes over the case, Athey ordered a transcript of this week’s motion hearing put in the court file.
See other detail of Friday’s hearing in an upcoming Royal Examiner story, including closing arguments and the testimony of current and former EDA board members William Biggs, Ron Llewellyn, Bruce Drummond and William Sealock, called to question Defense Exhibit 8 referenced in yesterday’s motions hearing story.
All did testify that they had not signed the “Confidential” Closed Session Resolution document in question, despite McDonald attorney McDannell’s attempt to head that testimony off by withdrawing the disputed document from evidence. Noting the exhibit had already been introduced and commented on by a previous witness, Athey denied McDannell’s request to withdraw the document.
Local arrest made after purchasing pickup truck with fake check
On June 1, 2020, David S. Twigg Jr. was arrested for using several forged and one fake check to purchase a 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Pickup Truck from a local Auto Dealer. Information obtained as part of this investigation has implicated Twigg in similar scams in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other parts of Virginia. A record check of Twigg returned an active arrest warrant out of Norfolk Virginia for a larceny charge.
If you have information on this individual, please contact Investigator Jeremy Seabright at 540-635-4128.
Sunday night house fire ruled arson – occupant charged
On Sunday, May 31, 2020, at approximately 10:20 pm, the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services was dispatched to 121 E. 14th Street, Front Royal, for a reported residential structure fire.
Fire, Rescue, and officers from the Front Royal Police Department arrived at the scene and observed an active fire in the basement with a significant amount of smoke coming from the doors and windows of the first floor. Firefighters initiated a rapid search of the residence and determined no one was trapped inside the home. The fire was quickly extinguished, however, the residence was rendered uninhabitable with an estimated $80,000 in damages. One of the occupants of the home has received assistance from the American Red Cross.
An investigation by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was caused by an act of arson and requested assistance by the Front Royal Police Department Criminal Investigations Division.
As a result of the investigation and consultation with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, Lauren T. Roberts, a 33-year-old Front Royal resident, has been charged in connection with the fire incident. Ms. Roberts has been charged with a single felony count of Virginia Code § 18.2-77 Burning or destroying a dwelling house. Roberts was transported to the Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where she was held without bond. The court date for this offense is on July 28, 2020, at 9 am in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal G. Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Detective M.R. Ramey with the Front Royal Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 540-636-2208.
Linden resident strikes pedestrian with vehicle, charged with malicious wounding
In the evening hours of May 12, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the intersection of East Stonewall Drive and Bee Street for a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. The victim, 54-year-old male, Dale Potter, was quickly located by first responding officers and transported by Warren County EMS personnel to Warren Memorial Hospital for initial treatment. Potter was then flown to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
From the initial investigation, it was discovered the victim was intentionally struck by a passenger car driven by Avery Bailey because of a physical altercation in the minutes prior. Bailey, a 21-year-old Linden resident, fled the scene and abandoned the vehicle at an alternate location. The vehicle and Bailey were located shortly thereafter by FRPD with the assistance of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Avery Bailey has been charged with malicious wounding (18.2-51) and was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he is currently being held without bond. The court date for this offense is set for June 30, 2020, in Warren County General District Court.
This investigation is on-going and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Town Talk: A conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal; watch out for scams, counterfeit money
In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Seal is the Community Resource Officer and Captain Holzbauer is in charge of the Patrol Division. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has the primary law enforcement responsibilities of providing a wide range of services and to initiate a proactive approach when assisting the community.
Lt Seal brings us information on COVID-19 scams in our community. Captain Holzbauer ask for help from the community on two individuals wanted in connection with passing counterfeit money in the County.
The Sheriff’s Office is looking for the following individuals:
Cyrus Bartholomew Fiel, a 31 years old, white male, 5’10”, 160 lbs, red hair, green eyes. He has multiple warrants out for his arrest: Probation Violation, Dangerous Drugs, Forgery of US Currency.
- Wanted out of Strasburg Police Department for Dangerous Drugs
- Wanted out of Front Royal Police Department for a Probation Violation
- Wanted out of WCSO for Forgery of United States Currency
Fiel and other accomplices have allegedly been making counterfeit United States currency, $10, $20, $50, $100. Two arrests have been made in this case already and more charges are pending.
Lekeshian Jones, 33 years old, black female, 5’3″, 180-200 lbs. She is from the Trenton, NJ area. Jones has been identified as one of two females that passed $760 in counterfeit $20 at Walmart in Front Royal on April 11, 2020.
If you have any information, please contact Investigator J. Seabright email@example.com or call the mail number of the Sheriff’s Office (540) 635-4128
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
One vehicle accident downs power lines to Royal Village Wednesday afternoon
The power into Royal Village was interrupted early Wednesday evening as a result of a traffic incident. Town Director of Energy Services David Jenkins responded to Royal Examiner’s request for information on the situation early Thursday morning. Below is the full text of his reply:
“The Energy services department received an online submittal that the power was out in the W 11th St area. a crew was dispatched and upon arrival they found that a vehicle had struck a utility pole that feed’s directly from our Kendrick Lane substation and snapped it off. The crew than began to clear and isolate the primary wire and pole that was on the ground and then proceeded to get the power back on by transferring the loads to another circuit that feeds from our Manassas Avenue substation.
“The pole that was struck also had underground primary feeder attached to it as well. We called in our Public works department for a backhoe to dig up the damaged wire. A contractor for CenturyLink had to be called in to repair the phone lines.
“Power went off at 6:41 pm
“Power back on at 7:27 pm
“Number of customers affected 931”
Information gathered at the scene by Royal Examiner staff indicated the driver of the involved vehicle may have fled the scene on foot.
By late morning Thursday, Front Royal Police Captain Crystal Cline confirmed the arrest of Artavia Michelle Price-Bey for DUI, Property Damage over $1000, and Failure to Maintain Car Insurance, regarding the incident. Price-Bey was transported to RSW Regional Jail and booked into the facility at 9:26 p.m. Wednesday evening. She was released Thursday morning at 11:52 a.m.
Winchester Police on point of carjacking suspect arrest in Front Royal
Prior to 8 a.m., Thursday morning, April 2nd, not far from the Royal Examiner/National Media Services’ Commerce Avenue Front Royal offices, a joint law enforcement operation led by the Winchester City Police Department’s Investigative Unit arrested a suspect on multiple charges in a March 28 incident in the city. Below is the Winchester Police Department’s full press release on its investigation and Thursday morning’s joint-departmental operation:
On April 2, 2020, at approximately 7:15 a.m., the Winchester Police Department (WPD), assisted by other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at 218 East 6th Street in Front Royal, VA following an ongoing investigation into a carjacking in the City of Winchester. As a result of the investigation and search warrant, Diontre Tyrese Bell, 20 years old, of the above address in Front Royal, was arrested and charged with carjacking, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On March 28, 2020, at approximately 12:30 a.m., WPD was alerted to a motor vehicle theft that had just occurred in the 100 blocks of East Pall Mall Street. Upon investigation into the incident, detectives learned that the male victim was standing outside his 1990 Dodge Caravan when he was approached by a group of males. One of the males, later identified as Diontre Bell, grabbed the backpack the victim was wearing and took items including a firearm and keys to the van. Threatening statements were made during the encounter. No injuries were sustained during the incident. The van was later recovered on March 30th, parked and unoccupied, along the roadway in the 1300 block of South Braddock Street.
During the execution of the search warrant, two cell phones were seized and DNA was collected. Bell is being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Detention Center without bond. The Winchester Police Department would like to publicly thank the Front Royal Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.