FRONT ROYAL – “This will be a damaging loss for whoever loses,” Judge Ian Williams observed Wednesday of the time, effort and expense being put into the Tom Sayre defamation lawsuit against former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald at the General District Court level – a level where the maximum award is $25,000.
“It’s very curious – but I’m giving you more time to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Williams added of additional time he granted Sayre attorney Tim Bosson and McDonald counsel Lee Berlik in an attempt to reach a legal consensus on filings in the case. – “There will be no more hearings on this,” the judge warned of dueling evidentiary motions before the new trial date of August 2, at 1 p.m. The Winchester-based judge explained he had to change the original trial date from June 21 due to a conflicting trial assignment.
As the March 20th motions hearing drew to a close after an hour-and-forty-five minutes, Judge Williams bemoaned the time and legal effort being put in on preliminary motions. He asked the attorneys what they made an hour. Bosson replied $350, Berlik $425 (I’m definitely in the wrong line of work).
Noting that amounted to $775 for every hour put in by both sides on the case, the judge marveled at the work being done on a case with a $25,000 award cap.
The most recent result of all that legal work was plaintiff Tom Sayre prevailing on a series of evidentiary motions argued Wednesday afternoon in his $25,000 defamation suit against McDonald.
Overruled by Judge Williams on March 20 were defense motions to: 1/ a “plea and bar” which would have essentially thrown the plaintiff’s case out as having not established the grounds, including malice, upon which the civil suit is based; 2/ to further reduce the number of complaints on statute of limitations violations; 3/ remove additional detail on specific complaints in the case added since the initial filing; 4/ and prevent any plaintiff subpoena of records of EDA/McDonald Private Investigator Kenneth Pullen as privileged information.
On that latter issue, plaintiff counsel Bosson told the court that he had verified that the EDA Board of Directors had initially hired Pullen in the wake of the May 17, 2017, EDA office break in. However, he said the EDA board had turned the private investigator’s contract over to its then executive director as incidents of alleged trespass and vandalisms reported by McDonald at her home escalated over the following month.
The fact that then-EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher requested Town Police to drop their investigation of the EDA office break in, in favor of the EDA’s private investigator’s handling of the case has been a sticking point for EDA critics, particularly former Town Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger’s father Mark Egger. The elder Egger has repeatedly questioned the board of supervisors on lapses in county oversight of the EDA; as well as seemingly conflicting stories regarding who hired the PI and why Drescher, speaking for the EDA board, sent a letter asking for a halt to the FRPD investigation.
Judge Williams authorized a subpoena of Pullen and his records from June 6 to August 16, 2017. However, Bosson told the court he had been informed by the EDA that they do not have any documents related to Pullen’s investigation; and that either “Ms. McDonald has them or they’ve been destroyed.”
But the court ruling on Pullen and his records will allow information in a series of July 14, 2017 emails between McDonald and this reporter subpoenaed by the plaintiff and referenced several times in Wednesday’s hearing, to be corroborated or not corroborated by the private investigator, if not on paper, on the witness stand.
As Bosson noted during Wednesday’s hearing, in those emails McDonald alleges “a culprit” in the alleged June 15, 2017 rock-throwing vandalism at her home had been identified and was being approached by Pullen to wear a wire on a suspected accomplice in an alleged plot to terrorize her. Bosson told the court that based on information from the recipient of those McDonald emails the references to “the first Putin” and “our photo boy” as a director of the operation against her are references to Mr. Sayre. The alleged plot to terrorize McDonald was outlined in the crumpled, typed note the WCSO incident report indicated was pointed out in her yard to sheriff’s office first responders investigating the June 15 vandalism reported at 9:02 p.m.
As Royal Examiner previously reported, that note investigators assumed to be dropped by the vandal at the scene contains two phone numbers, Tom Sayre’s office number and former Town Manager Michael Graham’s cell phone number; as well as references a “Matt” being run off by a barking dog of McDonald’s; getting “files to the Examiner” because “Norma Jean will be waiting for them”; and instructions “not to call Tom during business hours…” and, drum roll please, “Do not take this sheet with you …”
The incident report appeared to indicate no fingerprints found on the note.
All those implicated by name and known to authorities testified at McDonald’s misdemeanor false police report trial that they had no knowledge of the note or any plot against McDonald. While dismissing the case against McDonald on October 31, 2018, General District Court Judge W. Dale Houff commented that there was something “terribly wrong” about the note. However, Houff ruled that Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden had not established enough evidence or motive as to why McDonald would fabricate such a situation.*
As for defense attorney Berlik’s complaint that plaintiff counsel Bosson has not been responsive to subpoenas of plaintiff records in a timely manner, Bosson noted that many of the responses were being delivered to the McDonald team in Circuit Court where the defendant has become the plaintiff in filing a $600,000 defamation suit against Sayre.
“They filed the exact same thing in circuit court and will receive them there – I don’t understand why we are here,” Bosson said of the defense’s beef over the subpoena responses.
“Do you think the two of you can agree on anything,” Judge Williams asked the attorneys. When Berlik began, “Not now,” the judge countered, “If you can’t do it, I can go through all of (the subpoenas) and choose (what’s in and what’s out) and you can live with it … we’re not having another hearing on this.”
In making his case to reduce the scope of the defense subpoena submission, Sayre attorney Bosson pointed to his own four subpoenas totaling 20 specific requests in the wake of the judge’s earlier hearing admonishment to the attorneys not to turn evidentiary subpoenas into fishing expeditions. Bosson compared his numbers to the defense filing of seven subpoenas totaling 89 specific requests.
While setting a series of dates for submissions and responses approaching the new trial date, the judge set May 10 for the final product – “either separate orders or one agreed-upon order,” Williams observed, adding, “If you achieve that (an agreed order) I may invite you all up here for champagne.”
Williams then glanced to his left at Front Royal Town Attorney Doug Napier listening to the proceedings, offering to include him in the celebration of functional legal compromise; leading Front Royal Police Captain Crystal Cline to Napier’s left to inquire if she might be included in that celebration as well.
Back on the serious legal train, Napier told the court that the town government could not respond to a defense subpoena of town personnel text messages because “we just don’t have them.”
Napier was also present representing the Town in attempting to join the plaintiff in the effort to quash certain defense motions on the table that day. However, Napier acknowledged that two attempts he had made to notify Berlik of the Town’s planned joining in that motion had failed to reach McDonald’s attorney. During the hearing Napier simply deferred to the plaintiff’s arguments on the motions to quash.
FOOTNOTE: Despite McDonald’s criminal case acquittal, it is noteworthy as previously reported by Royal Examiner, that the prosecutor did not call the Town Police investigator who developed the false police report case against McDonald, nor the State Police officer who filed the warrant, nor an EDA employee whose recorded FRPD interview appears to corroborate this reporter’s timeline on meeting with McDonald about incidents at her home prior to the report of the vandalism rather than the following morning as asserted in her criminal case defense. Madden also did not present evidence regarding motive given to him by one prosecution witness – Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw’s exploration of McDonald’s use of large amounts of cash in purchases and down payments in her personal real estate business; as well as Shaw’s inquiries into the identify of a “secret investor” in the since-aborted police academy project slated for EDA land in the Happy Creek Technology Park. That investor was believed to be ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran. Tran has since said such an investment was discussed, but never agreed to. A file containing that information stored in an obscure place in McDonald’s office was the only thing she reported missing from the May 17, 2017, EDA office break in. Without a shovel being turned on the site, the EDA reports it spent over $500,000 on the police academy project before its abandonment.
Winchester man faces multiple charges following possible OD death at Hampton Inn
On Saturday, January 23, 2021, Front Royal Police Department (FRPD) and Warren County EMS personnel responded to the Hampton Inn, located at 9800 Winchester Road, for a report of an unresponsive 38-year-old female. The 911 caller was identified as the female’s husband, Nathaniel E. Green, III, 42, of Winchester, who remained on scene. Despite the best efforts of FRPD Units and EMS Personnel, the female was pronounced deceased on scene.
Detectives located three (3) handguns, multiple rounds of ammunition for the weapons, identifications cards belonging to Mr. Green, a pink powder and two capsules with white powder, both of which are suspected narcotics, located in the same proximity. A criminal history check revealed that Green is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms.
Nathaniel Green was subsequently arrested without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he went before a magistrate and is currently being held without bond. Green was charged with § 18.2- 308.2 Felon in Possession of a Firearm and § 18.2-250 Possession of a Controlled Substance. A court date for these offenses is set for March 2, 2021, at 10:00 A.M., in Warren County General District Court. Further details regarding this matter cannot be released at this time due to the pending nature of the investigation.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective L.J. Waller at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin
A Front Royal, Virginia man, who in the fall of 2017 distributed two fatal, fentanyl-laced doses of heroin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a drug charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the possibility of a life sentence, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, announced.
Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr., 43, of Front Royal, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing fentanyl. Because the recipient of the distribution died from overdose by ingesting the fentanyl within, Sovereign faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum possible statutory penalty of life at sentencing.
“When Sovereign trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to an already-vulnerable group of people, he perpetuated their addiction and despair, and ultimately caused their death,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar stated today. “Because of the hard work and persistence of our federal and state partners, Sovereign has been brought to justice and will spend the better part of his life in federal prison.”
“The threat fentanyl brings to our Virginia neighborhoods and families cannot be overstated. With overdoses across the area spiking in the past year, DEA Washington Division has been working hard to investigate and arrest egregious criminals such as this, who are blatantly distributing poisonous drugs and spreading death and violence across our communities.”
Sovereign admitted today that in the fall of 2017 he made regular trips from Front Royal, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in order to purchase heroin.
On October 24, 2017, Sovereign met with victim E.R. in Front Royal. E.R. purchased a small packet of heroin from Sovereign which contained fentanyl. Later that night, E.R. ingested the contents of the packet, and as a result died.
On or about October 25, 2017, Sovereign traveled to Baltimore to meet his source of supply, where he purchased one gram of heroin. When Sovereign returned to Front Royal, he met with victim N.C. at Sovereign’s residence where he and N.C. ingested 4-5 Ritalin pills together. Later, before Sovereign left for work, he provided N.C. with a small packet of heroin, which contained fentanyl. On or about October 26, 2017, N.C. ingested the contents of the packet, and she died.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh is prosecuting the case for the United States.
Sheriff’s Office seeks info on road rage shooting
On Sunday, January 17, 2021, at approximately 7:15 PM, an alleged road rage incident involving two passenger vehicles was reported eastbound on John Marshall Highway in the area of Ashland Court. Witnesses described hearing a single gunshot, and when inspecting the trunk of their car, observed what appeared to be a bullet hole. The suspect vehicle was described as black 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer with dark tinted windows, last seen travelling eastbound onto Interstate 66. Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to contact WCSO Deputy John Gregory at (540) 635-4128.
Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit
A New Castle, DE, man is behind bars on multiple charges after he fled law enforcement Sunday, January 10, 2021. Virginia State Police have charged Marquez D. Adams, 27, in Shenandoah County with one felony count of eluding law enforcement, one count of reckless driving by speed, one count of reckless driving failure to maintain control, one count of driving with a revoked license, and one count of driving with a phone in hand.
State Police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 7:50 p.m. as a 2002 BMW 330CI was traveling South on Interstate 81 at the 286 mile-marker in Shenandoah County. The violation was for speeding, as the BMW was driving 100 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.
The pursuit continued onto Rt. 42 in Woodstock, Rt. 11 in Edinburg, and in Mount Jackson before ending back on I-81 South. The BMW eventually ran off the left side of the roadway causing it to collide with a State Police patrol car before being contained on the right shoulder on I-81 at the 263-mile-marker. The driver, Adams, was taken into custody and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.
No troopers were injured during the course of the pursuit.
The pursuit reached speeds of up to 130 mph.
Vehicle pursuit through Warren County results in multiple struck vehicles before ending on 6th Street in Front Royal
On Monday, January 11, 2021, at approximately 4:32 PM, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputy observed a Mercedes travelling at a high rate of speed in the area of Riverton. The WCSO deputy attempted to stop the Mercedes for a traffic violation in the area of 522 Park and Ride, and the driver of the Mercedes refused to obey and yield for the deputy. The driver of the Mercedes then crossed a concrete traffic barrier, driving into the opposite lane of travel where the Mercedes struck an occupied vehicle, failed to stop and then continued eastbound onto Interstate 66.
The driver of the Mercedes continued to accelerate at a high rate of speed and the deputy lost sight of the vehicle and terminated the pursuit. Within a short time after the termination of the pursuit, local citizens began calling the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center to report a Mercedes driving recklessly, forcing other motorists off the road and passing dangerously across the double yellow lined roadway of John Marshall Highway travelling into the Town of Front Royal. WCSO deputies responded to that area and located the aforementioned Mercedes. As WCSO deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver of the Mercedes continued to refuse to yield and took flight at a high rate of speed onto Leach Run Parkway.
The pursuit ended on 6th Street in the area of Manassas Avenue, in Front Royal, when it struck several parked vehicles and one occupied vehicle. Charges against the driver of the Mercedes, whose name was not released because they were determined to be a juvenile, are pending the Virginia State Police investigation of the collision. Warren County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Warren County Fire and Rescue, Front Royal Police Department and Virginia State Police. Any questions pertaining to the crash investigation should be directed to the Virginia State Police.
Accused 2008 murderer of Buddhist monk in Fauquier denied bond
The 62-year-old Korean man arrested November 30 in Georgia for the 2008 murder of Du Chil Park, also known as Buddhist Monk Mogu, was denied bail in his first court appearance since being extradited to Fauquier County on December 15.
Won Yong Jung was in Fauquier County General District Court on December 23 seeking release on a cash bond. As initially reported by “Fauquier Now”, that bond was denied following a 20-minute hearing during which the prosecution described the knife attack on the 56-year-old Park as “brutal” and contended Jung remains a threat, not only to flee due to the gravity of the Second-Degree Murder charge and the top end 40-year sentence it carries, but to the community at large.
As noted by Fauquier Now, in denying the bond request Judge Allison Coppage ruled for Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey Cooke’s arguments that the defendant, who utilized an English to Korean translator during the hearing, had not effectively countered the prosecution’s case against bond. Jung’s next scheduled court date is April 8 for a preliminary hearing on the evidence at the root of the Commonwealth’s Second-Degree Murder case against Jung.
As Royal Examiner initially reported following Jung’s arrest in his home area of Duluth, in Gwinnett County, Georgia, over 12 years earlier Park’s body was discovered several days after his death from multiple stab wounds at his Free State Road property in Marshall. Information released by Fauquier authorities in the wake of his 2008 murder indicated Park came to America in 1998 and established the Jungtosa Zen Buddhist Temple in the Springfield area of Fairfax County, moving the temple to Marshall in March of 2004 and continuing his healing work in acupuncture and moxibustion, the latter also “an oriental medicine therapy”.
Born in Kyong Ju, South Korea around 1951-52, Fauquier authorities also noted that “in the 1970’s/80’s Park was an activist against former Korean military governments. He was imprisoned in 1974 for hiding an activist on the run and then became a Monk in 1978” and “operated a small temple in Chung Noung, a part of Seoul, where he treated poor people with acupuncture and moxibustion.”
A Warren County resident with connections to Park and his healing work as Monk Mogu, noted he often travelled to the Front Royal area to treat children and adults, some with serious physical disabilities. “His Mantra was always ‘to help alleviate pain for all sentient beings’,” that area friend told this reporter.
It will be interesting to hear the prosecution address motive in Jung’s alleged murder of Du Chil Park, or Monk Mogu as he was known to patients and friends of his temple.