Turning the tables: Rappahannock Circuit Court judge will answer to assault charges

Chief Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker will appear in Stafford County District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 8:30 a.m. to face misdemeanor assault and battery charges in connection with his arrest Sept. 6 at a Walmart in that county.

Parker told an arresting Stafford County sheriff’s deputy that he had found some jewelry in the parking lot of the Walmart located on Rt. 17 just north of Fredericksburg. Parker said he turned the jewelry into the store’s service desk and asked the clerk for written documentation of the merchandise as proof of his return so he could claim it if the owner was not found.

Judge Jeffrey W. Parker was arrested last week after a confrontation at Walmart near Fredericksburg. Stafford County Sheriff

When the clerk refused to provide a receipt, Parker allegedly reached across the counter and grabbed her hand. The Fauquier Times quoted the clerk as stating later that Parker had grabbed her hand “hard enough to hurt.”

The judge was arrested by deputy J.J. Bryan, taken to the magistrate, charged with assault and battery, and released on an unsecured bond.

Reached Tuesday, Parker’s Warrenton-based attorney, Robic C. Gulick, said he could not comment for the record, but he did confirm that the judge would be present for Tuesday’s arraignment.

Parker, 65, has served on the circuit courts of Rappahannock, Fauquier and Loudoun counties since 2001. During that time he has presided over several local high-profile cases. In 2002, Judge Parker ruled against Rappahannock County and overturned then-County Administrator John McCarthy’s determination that the Bardo Brewery’s “beer tastings” were in violation of the county’s zoning ordinance.

Parker compared beer tastings to offering customers of a farm stand a slice of a tomato.

He also presided over a 2004 case in which Washington residents Stephen and Mary Catherine Worley challenged the town’s Architectural Review Board over its Historical District Ordinance. Parker ruled that the ordinance was invalid.

And more recently, he presided over David Konick vs. the Town of Washington in connection with the “Town Square Beautification” project. The suit asked the court to invalidate several actions taken by the town council in 2013 as part of the project’s partnership with the Inn at Little Washington and Trinity Episcopal Church.

As for the judge’s arrest, Charles Crowson, a Walmart corporate spokesperson, had no comment when reached Tuesday. “We will not speak about an ongoing investigation,” he said, adding that there is no company-wide lost and found policy.

“Every store sets its own policy about lost and found,” he said.

A Walmart manager reached at the store where the incident took place hung up the phone after saying she could not comment.

Since Parker’s arrest, the Rappahannock News has received both praise and complaints from both in-state and out of state residents about the judge. Local lawyers, upon hearing of Parker’s arrest, expressed surprise and defended what appeared to be Parker’s initial intent to attempt to return the jewelry to its rightful owner.

Konick, reached by this newspaper, explained what is known as the “finders keepers” law.

“Essentially, if you find something in a public place, such as the Walmart parking lot, you have the right to keep it, unless the rightful owner is found,” the lawyer said. “There is no requirement to turn it into lost and found. And neither Parker nor Walmart is obligated to find the rightful owner.”

But, Konick pointed out, Parker was trying to do the right thing by turning in the piece. “Presumably, Judge Parker asked for a receipt so that there was record that he had turned in the jewelry, so that in case the owner was not found, he could claim it.”

This past January, the Virginia General Assembly re-appointed Parker to his third eight-year term on the bench. He is known to have experienced poor health of late, including problems with his back and hip. He has made it known that he has considered early retirement.

About Patty Hardee 277 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.