Prosecutor: ‘The fact that he is a judge was irrelevant’
A Stafford County judge yesterday granted a motion by Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen to drop a misdemeanor assault and battery charge against Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker.
“Today I made a motion to drop the charge,” Olsen told the Rappahannock News in a telephone interview following the morning hearing in Stafford County General District Court.
“When I made the request to the judge I summarized my reasoning for my decision, showed him a video of the incident, and then asked him to drop the charge. The judge had to find good cause to grant the motion, through my summary of evidence that I gave surrounding the day in question,” Olsen said.
“Obviously Judge Parker and I are delighted the case was resolved in his favor,” Parker’s Warrenton based attorney, Robin C. Gulick, told this newspaper yesterday. “It was a good morning.”
Gulick said after reviewing a Walmart video of the Sept. 5 incident, and further reviews of interviews with the arresting officer and the store’s sales associate who had been central to the case against Judge Parker, the Stafford judge obviously “concluded the case was not prosecutable.”
When speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Olsen summarized his motion before the bench to dismiss: “That Judge Parker, the defendant, was at the Walmart on Route 17 [north of Fredericksburg] where he found [in the parking lot] a leather watchband with rings attached to it — they appeared as if they could be diamond rings, valuable rings — and he went to the customer service desk to turn it in.”
After the judge handed the found items to the sales associate, he “insisted that he get a receipt,” Olsen continued. When she declined to provide a receipt, the attorney said the judge then “reached over counter” to take back the property, and in doing so “his hands were on both the property and her hands.
“She would not give it up and he was trying to take it back,” Olsen described it. “It all lasted a period of 3 to 5 seconds. I played the video in court.”
Olsen pointed out that the video was from an “overhead camera, and it shows the back of her head and the top of his head,” so it was not incredibly revealing. “You can see his hands on hers and the property at the same time.”
The sales associate had told the responding Stafford County Sheriff’s deputy that Judge Parker had squeezed her hand to the extent that it was painful. The deputy eventually placed the judge under arrest — even though it was Parker himself who called 911.
Asked whether the video revealed any degree of pain, Olsen told this newspaper he hesitated to answer the question: “It’s something you can’t tell — the degree of touching — by the video. Both had a hold of the property and neither wanted to let it go.”
Olsen said after the sheriff’s office had interviewed both the sales associate and the accused judge, the deputy determined there was probable cause to make an arrest.
“I told the [Stafford] judge that after reviewing the case, and reviewing the video, that I felt there was probable cause to make the arrest . . . but that it did not warrant a criminal prosecution,” Olsen explained to the News.
“The fact that he [Parker] is a judge was irrelevant,” he added. “Our job as prosecutors is to look at our cases to see what should be prosecuted. My decision not to prosecute was no different in this case than others.”
The 65-year-old Parker was just reappointed in January to an eight-year term in the 20 Judicial Circuit , which includes Rappahannock County.