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April, 2014

  1. Norfolk’s top prosecutor charged with DUI

    April 25, 2014 by Christy

    With a DUI conviction now on his record, Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood plans to appeal and could find himself fighting to keep his job.

    Accomack County General District Judge found Underwood guilty of driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test on April 25, 2014. He ordered Underwood to spend three days in jail.

    Friday’s court hearing came after Underwood’s case was delayed three times, because his attorney, state Senator Tommy Norment, was dealing with General Assembly business.

    The charges grew out of an October 23, 2013 traffic stop on Interstate 264 near the Brambleton Avenue exit.

    Underwood, was pulled over along with two motorists who had followed behind him through safety cones that marked off a road construction area, according to State Trooper J.O. Ogden. Ogden testified that he let the other motorists go and made a call to his dispatcher to contact his supervisor after he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on the Norfolk prosecutor’s breath.

    He said Underwood’s speech was slurred and when he got out of his vehicle, he seemed unstable on his feet, and appeared to be using the vehicle as a brace or to steer himself, the trooper said. Ogden, a former Virginia Beach deputy, said he knew Underwood from the years that he was a prosecutor in Virginia Beach.
    The trooper said he asked Underwood more than once if he was going to take the tests and each time he refused.

    Norment argued that the trooper had Underwood get out of his car for a field sobriety test and never specifically asked him to take a breath test. The judge pointed out that Ogden knew Underwood and knew he was an attorney who would understand what kind of tests were involved. The trooper testified that Underwood told him he would refuse any test he offered.

    Underwood did not enter a plea on the DUI charge but stipulated the evidence was sufficient to find him guilty. He pled not guilty to the other charges that grew out of the traffic stop.

    The judge said he would give Underwood the same sentence he gives to others in such cases. He sentenced Underwood to 33 days in jail, with all but three suspended, and a fine of $1,000 with $500 suspended and ordered him to participate in an Alcohol Safety Action Program. He also said Underwood’s driver’s license would be suspended for a year. The judge dismissed the charge of possession of a concealed weapon while intoxicated in a public place; and reduced the reckless driving in a construction work zone charge to improper driving.

    Read the full article here.


  2. Criminal Jury Trials in Virginia

    by Allan

    Nice subject here. Actually in the state system most criminal trials are without a jury. This means the Judge decides guilt or innocence. In the federal courts, almost all not guilty trials are with a jury. Why the difference. One systems all juries another system, it’s rare.

    As they say, the devil is in the details. All defendants have a right to trial hoe kom ik aan cialis by jury. But in the Virginia state system, the jury also recommends a sentence on a finding of guilt. In the federal system, the issue of punishment is left entirely to the Judge.

    Personally, I don’t try cases in federal court anymore. The “why” is a subject for another note.
    But in the state system. We have a case of PWID (possession with intent to distribute). This offense is punishable by statute from 5 to 40 years. Yeah, a lot of time. No parole must serve 85% and then you get out. The least a jury can recommend under this system is 5 years. A judge trying the case can give probation. Actually sentencing guidelines for a defendant with no record ranges from 7 months to one year 6 months, or so. But if the jury recommends 5 years, the judge will impose it even if he would have imposed a sentence in accordance with the sentencing guidelines. God help you if the jury recommends 30 years. The judge will impose that 30 years. See you in about 2037. No foolin. The judge almost always imposes the sentence recommended by the jury. Doesn’t have to,┬ábut will. Doesn’t want to be the subject of critical comments in the media. Talk about judicial courage.

    But the state system saves money. Jury trials are expensive. We would need more judges, more courtrooms, more DAs, more defense lawyers, public defenders. So no one complains.


  3. Norfolk council election could endanger voting bloc

    April 1, 2014 by Christy

    In the six-person race to fill Anthony Burfoot’s Ward 3 seat on the City Council, the candidate with the most to lose may be Mayor Paul Fraim.

    Burfoot, an ally of the mayor, was elected treasurer in November. His departure from the council puts Fraim’s majority voting bloc on the line.

    After years of solid control of council actions, Fraim’s coalition today is “somewhat fragile,” said former Ocean View Councilman W. Randy Wright.

    “You’ve got a loose-knit majority coalition that is in jeopardy with someone else being elected in Ward 3 that is not of the same ilk,” he said. “It’s a big seat.”

    Wright was unseated four years ago by Councilman Tommy Smigiel, now known as an independent vote on the council and often the sole dissenter.

    But Smigiel is sometimes joined in opposition to the mayor by Councilman Andy Protogyrou

    and Vice Mayor Angelia Williams, creating 5-3 votes.

    One of the most high-profile examples of a 5-3 split was the approval in 2011 of the ill-fated plan by Tivest Development for an office building at Tidewater Drive and Virginia Beach Boulevard. The plan fell apart days after the vote when it became public that the anchor tenant, a nonprofit called STOP, was having major financial problems and wouldn’t be able to afford the rent.

    Were Burfoot’s seat to be won by someone less inclined to agree with Fraim, 4-4 votes could result, killing some proposals.

    Fraim said he has not endorsed a candidate in Ward 3 and hasn’t decided whether he’ll do so publicly.

    The Ward 3 candidates are salesman and political consultant William H. Collins Jr., 59; Glen L. Jones Sr., 52, a minister and school volunteer; Mamie Johnson, 48, president of the Broad Creek civic league and a retired teacher; Rodney A. Jordan, 48, a School Board member; Marcus J. Powell, 48, a retired Marine and Barraud Park activist; and Lionell Spruill Jr., 46, a veterans affairs coordinator at Norfolk State University.

    The ward includes Norview, Ballentine Place and other neighborhoods in the heart of the city.

    Fraim said Johnson is the only candidate who has asked to meet with him. “I think she would do well on the council, but there are other candidates as well,” he said.

    Of Fraim, Johnson said, “Mayor Fraim has a really good vision as far as the direction of our schools as well as for our city.”

    Powell said that while he likes the longtime mayor and thinks Fraim has the best interests of the city at heart, he believes all of Norfolk’s elected officials should be limited in how long they can serve because some communities get passed over. Fraim has been mayor for 20 years.

    “I think Smigiel and Protogyrou work very well together,” he said. “They have the best interests of the people first – and then politics – and that’s how council should be run.”

    Read the full article from Pilotonline.com here.