After more than a year of rancor and accusations, reams of legal filings, numerous court appearances and legal bills, the county’s most discussed (and cussed) legal cases in recent years seem about to come to a quiet end.
The civil cases of local attorney David Konick against the Inn at Little Washington and the Town of Washington, as well as the Inn’s countersuit against Konick, could be settled soon. Konick and Tom Junker, an attorney for the Inn, told Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker last Thursday (June 2) that an agreement was being crafted.
“If all is signed and everything is finalized according to plan,” Konick told Parker, “it is anticipated that prior to July 11th an endorsed Order of Dismissal will be submitted for entry.”
The next day, Junker emailed this statement: “The parties have reached a settlement in principle concerning the cases and are in the process of finalizing the necessary documents.”
Junker went on to say that the settlement includes “our case against Mr. Konick, and Mr. Konick’s cases against The Inn and Mr. O’Connell,” all of which were filed in 2015 but based on events that took place in 2013, when the town, the Inn and Trinity Episcopal Church entered into a plan to beautify the central area of the town. Konick sued the Inn and Patrick O’Connell, the Inn’s owner and chef, and the town, accusing them of procurement and conflict of interest improprieties. The Inn and O’Connell then countersued Konick for abuse of process.
The congeniality of the June 2 court appearance contrasted with more than a year of animosity among the parties.
That morning, Konick approached the Rappahannock County courthouse wearing a nearly psychedelic tie that he later revealed had been bequeathed to him by his father.
He carried no overstuffed briefcase or stack of law books, but just a single piece of paper. Frank Reynolds, another local lawyer, teased him, “You’re going into court with only one piece of paper?” Konick waved the paper around.
Inside the courtroom, he sat in the gallery with Junker, the two looking more like friends than opposing counsel.
When it was their turn, Konick and Junker approached the bench, where Konick presented his one piece of paper to Judge Parker. After a short, somewhat jovial conversation between the three, the proceeding was over. The piece of paper was an order stipulating that the parties were “were engaged in settlement discussions and believed that a settlement will be reached.”
Settlement details sealed
Residents of the town and county interested in the cases may be disappointed — because although the parties are working on a settlement, the details are contained in sealed documents in the circuit court clerk’s office and are not available to the public. The Rappahannock News plans to file a request for the documents under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).
Next Monday (June 13) at its regular monthly meeting, the Washington Town Council is due to take up the settlement. The town, as a party to one of the suits, must sign off on the terms of the settlement.
More in circuit court
“I take property offenses pretty seriously,” Parker told Joshua Ty Trible Sr. before sentencing him last Thursday (June 2). Trible, 36, of Fredericksburg, was charged with felony grand larceny after taking money for services not rendered. “But,” Parker continued,” I am favorably impressed that you have made restitution and that you didn’t steal. The check was made out to you.” Parker then sentenced Trible to one year in the penitentiary (all of it suspended), two years of supervised probation and 40 hours of community service.
The charge stemmed from July 13, 2015, when Sperryville builder TG Taylor Construction paid Trible $2,000 to install flooring. “But he never did the work,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff told the court. “He told [Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn] Walters that he had a drug problem and used the money to buy drugs.”
Goff said that although Trible had had a few minor brushes with the law, he felt Trible “was a candidate for probation, as he had reached the age of 36 without a serious infraction.”
Before leaving court, Trible filled out and signed two money orders for $1,000 each and turned them over to the court clerk.
In district court
Casey Renae Fletcher did not appear in Rappahannock County District Court last Tuesday (June 7) as scheduled, bringing Judge J. Gregory Ashwell’s ire. The 20-year-old Amissville resident faced two felony charges of possessing controlled substances, including heroin; and one misdemeanor charge of unauthorized possession of drug paraphernalia.
“The court was not aware [she would be absent.]. Did she even tell you?” said Ashwell, after Fletcher’s court-appointed lawyer Mark Bailey explained that the girl’s parents had placed their daughter in rehab. “Her father strongly encouraged her to enter rehab,” said Bailey. “This appeared to be a serious situation.”
And as “there were no facilities in Virginia that had space or took her insurance,” said Bailey, Fletcher is in a treatment center in Dallas, Texas.
“So [by leaving the state] she has also violated the conditions of her bond,” replied Ashwell.
After the parties agreed to continue the case to Aug. 18, Ashwell addressed Fletcher’s parents, who were in the courtroom. “I understand that your daughter’s welfare is of paramount importance to you, but the court needs to know [her status]. She is in violation of her bond by leaving the state. I don’t know if you even notified her bondsman,” said Ashwell. “I want her back here Aug. 18. There will be no further continuances.”
Eric Jonathan Comer, 42, of Luray was back in court on a charge of non-compliance with VASAP, the state’s alcohol awareness program. It’s not the first time Comer has run afoul of the program. On Aug. 18, 2015, he was charged with violating the conditions of the program and sentenced to four days in jail. Both violations are related to a March 14, 2015, charge of a first offense of DWI. He pleaded guilty in district court on June 9, 2015, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, all suspended. His license was suspended for 12 months, but he was allowed to apply for a restricted license for limited uses. He was ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle and attend VASAP.
This time, Comer pleaded not guilty and requested a bench trial.
Goff called Darien Leake, the VASAP officer supervising Comer’s compliance, to the stand. Leake testified that based on data from Comer’s interlock device, Comer had had multiple relapses, racking up 14 violations in several months. “He told me he’s messed up. He has periods of abstinence and periods of relapse,” Leake told the court. But he said that Comer had taken steps to address the problem. “He attended the Ashley Addiction Treatment Center in Havre de Grace, Md. VASAP does not have the final report, but Mr. Comer has been 35 days clean.”
After Comer was sworn in, he told the court, “I have accepted the fact that I have an alcohol problem and have suffered physical complications from it,” He explained that he had been sober once for three years, but then someone offered him a drink with alcohol and he relapsed.
“This is my last chance,” he said. “I’ve seen Mr. Ashwell as many times in the last months as I’ve seen my parents. My goal is to focus on remaining sober for my family and myself.” Besides taking anti-craving medications, he said he has been following the guidance from Ashley to attend 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 90 days.
One of Comer’s goals was to get his driver’s license reinstated, as getting to work without a license presented a hardship. “Now I’m living with my brother three miles from where I work,” he said. “At least I’m providing for my family.”
Before ruling on the case, Ashwell said, “Generally the VASAP program is sufficient” to help most people. “But a small group of people are in your situation.” Ashwell said that although he was impressed with Comer’s progress, he was hesitant to let him back on the road.
He sentenced Comer to 86 days in jail, with 66 days suspended, and denied the request to reinstate Comer’s license.
On May 22, Deputy M. Dodson stopped a vehicle in the area of Lee Highway near the 211 Quicke Mart. As a result of the traffic stop, the driver Jesus Mato-Morales, 36, of Sperryville, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and driving with a restricted operator’s license.