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By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
Assuming current unofficial results hold, the Virginia State Senate has just switched hands with Republicans gaining two seats to form a 20-20 tie, allowing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to cast deciding votes.
Control of the senate rested on the results of a nail-biter in district 17 where Republican Bryce E. Reeves edged Democrat R. Edward “Edd” Houck by just 86 votes, or .2%, out of 45,056 cast. An apparent glitch in heavily Republican Spotsylvania County precinct 303 had incorrectly shown only a handful of votes cast earlier.
Republicans already hold all three statewide offices and control the House of Delegates by a wide margin. The GOP last had total control of the commonwealth from 2000 to 2002.
Texting over pay, rather than alcohol cited as cause of erratic I-66 trip
By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report
It ended not with a BANG, a body slam or even an appearance by TNA World Wrestling Champion Kurt Angle. Rather, if not exactly a whimper, the legendary wrestler’s reckless driving case ended with a $1500 fine but no jail time attached.
Angle’s attorney Todd Gilbert entered a plea of no contest to Reckless Driving on Nov. 8 in Warren County General District Court. After hearing the prosecution’s evidence presented by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Fleming and the defendant’s explanation of his erratic driving down I-66 following an appearance at the Shenandoah County Fair on Sept. 3rd, Judge W. Dale Houff imposed the maximum fine of $2,500, suspending $1,000 of that total. The judge agreed with the defense that the case did not bear any jail time.
Angle was initially charged with DUI by State Trooper Robert Scally after he judged the 6-foot, 240-pound, 42-year-old Pennsylvania resident to have failed a series of field sobriety tests, including an on-site breathalyzer test registering .091.
However the commonwealth’s attorney’s office later amended the charge to Reckless Driving because Angle blew only a .06 in a legally-admissible BAC test at Front Royal Police headquarters between 11:50 PM and 12:10 AM after being taken into custody and charged with DUI. The legal blood-alcohol limit is .08 or below.
The prosecution presented Angle’s driving record which showed a May 2010 reckless driving conviction in North Dakota and several dismissed driving charges in Angle’s native Pennsylvania.
At the time of the traffic stop following a citizen cell phone call from a motorist and passenger, who witnessed Angle’s driving erratically after they pulled onto the interstate behind him, Angle admitted to Trooper Scally to drinking three beers earlier that evening.
Fleming told the court the arresting officer found a 12-pack of beer in Angle’s vehicle, with two beers missing.
Gilbert told the court Angle admitted to driving poorly and inappropriately. However, rather than alcohol being an underlying cause, defense counsel said the cause was texting.
During the summary of the prosecution’s evidence Fleming told the court Angle was texting the promoter of the earlier wrestling show about his payment while driving eastbound on I-66 away from the Shenandoah County Fair appearance.
As for his client’s poor performance in the field sobriety tests, Gilbert pointed to Angle’s long wrestling career during which he has suffered several broken necks and multiple knee injuries.
Angle was a 1996 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist in heavyweight freestyle and NCAA champion before launching his highly successful professional wrestling career. Wikipedia describes Angle as one of only four people to complete the amateur wrestling “grand slam” of winning the Junior National, the NCAAs, the World Championship, and Olympic title. He was named one of the top 15 college wrestlers of all time by USA Wrestling and has been named the “greatest shoot wrestler”. According to Wikipedia, after initially turning down offers to join the World Wrestling Federation, Angle signed a multi-year contract with the company in 1998. After leaving WWE, Angle joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), where he became the second wrestler in TNA to win TNA’s Triple Crown and the first man to hold all three TNA championships simultaneously.
Gilbert challenged the prosecution’s contention Angle’s offense was a particularly “egregious” example of bad driving in arguing against any imposition of jail time as part of the sentence for his client.
“Were this not a high-profile defendant it is to likely the prosecution would have produced the North Dakota abstract or have had out-of-county witnesses present for this hearing,” Gilbert told the court. “His insurance will be impacted – it will go up – and his license will be impacted in his home state. And there is a stigma to his career and public image … but ultimately it is a case of someone driving poorly while using a phone.”
Judge Houff called the case unusual in his experience due to the length of time and distance of cell phone or texting use causing erratic driving. However, in the end he agreed the offense and evidence did not meet a standard to require jail time as part of the sentencing of the defendant.
And those out-of-county witnesses – nah, they weren’t Angle’s arch-wrestling nemesis Jeff Jarrett and his wife and Angle ex, Karen. They were identified in court as Mr. Mallory and Ms. Knight, who were present but not called to testify. They are believed to be Loudoun County residents, and pretty snippy ones at that … Hey, maybe it was the Jarretts in disguise … NO, I’m just getting sucked into that wrestling soap opera scenario again … I think.
By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
Republican Dan J. Murray, Jr. has won the North River District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors by a margin of 18 votes.
Murray garnered 374 votes or 36% in unofficial returns.
Democrat Chris W. Holloway received 356 votes or 35% while independent candidate Victor “Tory” Failmezger received 300 votes or 29%.
By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron has won a third term, beating back his first challenger since he was first elected in 2003.
With all precincts reporting, Republican McEathron won 3,455 votes or 68% of the vote to 1,635 votes or 32% won by independent candidate Robbie Seal, a Front Royal Police Sgt.
(Updated at 8:49 p.m.)
Failmezger ‘saddened’ by ‘tone’ and ‘untruths’ of Tederick attack
By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder – it DID!!!
“IT” is the three-way race for the North River District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors in which a recent and still philosophical Republican is running as a Democrat; a philosophical Democrat is running as an independent; a Republican who wasn’t planning on running for anything this fall is running – of all things – as a Republican; and the incumbent Democrat, Glenn White, local Republicans wanted to unseat isn’t running at all.
The assumed weirdness PEAK for us was long-time local Republican strategist Joe Swiger’s Facebook political seduction and slap-down of former Republican and neo-Democrat Chris Holloway (see related story first posted on the Warren County Report website on Nov. 2nd).
The follow-up pre-election weirdness was a rambling, and according to its target, factually inaccurate and intentionally misleading four-page written attack on the character and opinions of independent North River candidate Victor “Tory” Failmezger made by local Republican activist Matt Tederick.
In light of earlier statements, including an unfulfilled publicly-stated promise to contribute $50 to his campaign so that he, Tederick, could assure a chance to campaign against him, Failmezger told us he had been expecting such an attack from Tederick.
Among the allegations Tederick makes are that Failmezger is not from here but would dictate what is best of the community, has been termed an elitist in a 2005 Washington Post article, doesn’t want others to prosper, and is arrogant and wrathful for expressing past opposition to development and expansion of the Crooked Run Shopping Center.
Of Tederick’s attack, Failmezger released this statement:
“I have read Mr. Tederick’s letter of November 4th and am truly saddened by the tone, twisted words, untruths and quotes taken out of context with which he attacks me. He used these same negative tactics a year ago when he attacked Bret Hrbek in an attempt to unseat him as vice-mayor of Front Royal. He must feel very threatened by my candidacy to craft such a politically motivated letter. I am sure the voters in the North River District will see through Mr. Tederick’s attempt to affect the election and vote for who they see as the best candidate.”
Asked about his reaction to Tederick’s attack on another candidate, Republican North River candidate Dan Murray told us, “I have stated for the record that I would run a clean gentlemen’s campaign. I have kept my word! I had no knowledge of this letter till it was forwarded to me. He [Tederick] does not endorse anyone as his candidate of choice. This is adding drama at the close of the campaign.”
Fresh off his e-mail ambush by another local Republican activist, Joe Swiger, the other North River District candidate, Chris Holloway, declined to get anywhere near this one.
One clear-cut example of what he perceives as Tederick’s distortion of the truth is a quote taken from a 2005 Washington Post article. In his anti-endorsement letter/e-mail Tederick accuses Failmezger of moving to Warren County “recently” with an “elitist” agenda and uses a quote from a 2005 Washington Post article by M.J. McAteer titled “Jeffersonian Ideals” to make his point.
“Having traveled the world, he and his family decided to move to Warren County to show us what we have been doing wrong and as Travis McDonald said in a Washington Post article: ‘Failmezgers are members of an elite group.’ (Tederick’s emphasis)”
“I don’t know if buying property and moving here in 1994-95 is exactly recent,” Failmezger said. “And the Post quote was taken totally out of context from an article about architecture and our efforts to design our home in the style of Thomas Jefferson’s home at Poplar Forest.”
In fact, Failmezger, who with his wife Patricia are former owners of Old House Architectural Parts on East Main Street in Front Royal, notes the referenced article publicized not only their architectural efforts on their own home, but Front Royal and its downtown business district as well.
Failmezger produced a copy of the article from which the quote Tederick used to label him an elitist was taken. The relevant section from which Tederick quoted reads:
“Travis McDonald, director of architectural restoration for Poplar Forest, says the Failmezgers are members of an elite group. The Museum of Southern History outside Houston copied the exterior of the Jefferson retreat, he says, but the inside bears no resemblance to Poplar Forest. Otherwise, McDonald knows of only a handful of projects in which the Poplar Forest plans have been ‘reinterpreted.’ The Failmezgers, he says, are unusual in their fidelity to Jefferson’s vision.”
Poplar Forest was Thomas Jefferson’s private house outside of Lynchburg, VA. He built that home starting in 1806, Failmezger told us. The Failmezger home was designed, both inside and out, to mirror Jefferson’s design.
However Tederick said he “completely” stands by his letter, including the above quote. While some might view the Failmezgers’ desire to design a home based on one of Virginia’s most prominent architects and politicians as a creative tribute, Tederick sees it more negatively.
“How many people do you know who have a house modeled on Thomas Jefferson’s?” he asks.
Tederick says he believes his portrayal of Failmezger is accurate and for the independent candidate to say he is pro-business is “disingenuous”. Rather, Tederick feels Failmezger has a vested interest in protecting in-town commercial development, where the candidate has his own business interests.
In his campaign, downtown businessman and North River District Planning Commission representative Failmezger has promised to balance the business interests of the county and town. His campaign brochure states, “… the town and county are interwoven. A vibrant downtown and a controlled commercial and industrial corridor in the county are essential to the community.”
While he said he does not totally dismiss the notion of good planning, Tederick sees Failmezger’s use of the word “controlled” regarding north corridor commercial development as code for no commercial growth in the corridor.
However Failmezger counters that notion by pointing out that he once was personally involved in attempting to recruit an outside commercial/industrial client to the county’s north corridor.
“So it is just not true that I am against the creation of jobs or increasing the commercial tax base of this community,” Failmezger insists.
As for Tederick’s assertion he “verbally attacked” Crooked Run attorney Clay Athey during a 2006 public hearing, Failmezger says, “That I attacked Athey at that public hearing – that’s just not true. I said there was a lot of unused commercial land in the corridor that I would like to see used before there was further commercial rezoning. I may have said I liked to see trees on that hill, I’m not sure about cedar (as referenced in Tederick’s letter), rather than additional commercial buildings there. But I made no personal reference to Mr. Athey,” Failmezger says.
As for a commitment to preservation of natural settings, Failmezger said he is not arrogantly dictating anything to anybody. Rather, as he did at the Sept. 25th Candidates’ Forum and in his campaign literature, he points to the result of a 2010 Countywide survey in which citizens listed “rural settings, quiet and peaceful surroundings and current quality of life” as their three top reasons for living in Warren County.
As for Tederick’s assertion he is personally responsible for ongoing delays at the Crooked Run Center, Failmezger observes, “That land (Crooked Run II) is rezoned for development – it was approved by the supervisors. It was the developer who said well, we’re not ready so we will proffer not developing [Phase II of Crooked Run] before 2012. It wasn’t me, it was the economy that has held that development up.”
But Tederick’s not buying it. – “He has selective memory,” he said of Failmezger. “It’s just different visions … Win or lose this battle’s not over … I’m a passionate guy … I’m not arrogant enough to say I’m always right … but I believe what I say,” Tederick told us.
And so it goes on the campaign trail in Front Royal and Warren County as Election Day 2011 approaches.
By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
A version of this story first appeared on Google Plus.
Like most journalists, I was saddened to hear of the passing of CBS legend Andy Rooney.
To most young people, Andy was simply that cranky old guy who read a short essay at the end of the news magazine your parents watched every Sunday night.
But he was so much more.
First and foremost a writer, Andy was never comfortable in the medium that made him so famous. But he was transparent about that, before ‘transparency’ was cool.
Andy didn’t like being recognized and he never signed autographs—except in his books, of course.
I never met Andy but like millions of Americans I knew him from his writing and television work. I know what he represented to American mass communications at a key time of change.
Aside from the fact that he was classy, smart and a great writer, what really made Andy special to me was that he was one of the last of the people who were part of the beginning of television. He was part of that group of journalists and writers who had to figure out how to take their long-form radio programs and perform them under a camera and lights.
In a lot of ways, those of us in internet programming are going through the same transition.
Leo Laporte’s TWiT network started out as a group of former Tech TV hosts sitting around a few microphones and chatting about technology news.
People listened and the show became a hit. Then Leo added cameras and some lights and recently a million dollar studio. But it is still largely an audio show that happens to be available on video.
Many decades ago, when radio was king, a young writer for CBS named Andy Rooney went through the same technology shift. He spoke about it during a lengthy 1999 interview with Don Carleton for the Archive of American Television.
This was a period during which television was born. I wake up some mornings and I say I am old enough to have been in on the beginning of television…
At CBS, [Arthur] Godfrey was radio, an hour and a half of radio five days a week. And then CBS started fooling with television, and quite early on color television too.
But it was black and white [then] so they talked Godfrey into letting cameras into the radio studio. It was nothing. It was [a money] loss. They figured, ‘Well we might as well broadcast this radio show.’
Well gradually, of course, television crept in and the income from it rose and they put lights in the studio specifically designed for television and gradually the radio disappeared and the television came to the fore and the first thing you know it was Arthur Godfrey’s television show.
Enjoy a few minutes with the late, great Andy Rooney:
Defendants Allegedly Acquired More Than $33 Million in Contraband Cigarettes
From a release:
A Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg has indicted dozens of individuals for conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, money laundering and a variety of related charges.
The defendants were charged by the grand jury in four separate indictments returned under seal on February 17, 2011, August 3, 2011 and October 6, 2011. Those indictments were unsealed earlier this week following the arrest and initial court appearances by the defendants.
The charges are the result of a three-year investigation by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Western District of Virginia and the District of South Carolina, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department.
According to the indictments, the defendants acquired untaxed cigarettes in the Western District of Virginia and transported them for distribution in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York. Members of the conspiracy are accused of buying more than $33 million in contraband cigarettes from undercover federal agents during the life of the conspiracy.
The Grand Jury has charged the following individuals:
February 17, 2011:
Bach Tuyet Tran, 58, of Winchester, Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes; 44 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes; 36 counts of money laundering-promotion; 19 counts of money launder- promotion, concealment and avoiding reporting requirement; and 41 counts of money laundering-transactions greater than $10,000.
August 3, 2011:
Cheng Zeng, 27, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarette and launder money; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and 22 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes.
Mushtaq Ahmad, 34, Strasburg, Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and launder money; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and three counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes.
August 3, 2011:
Mohammad Syed Lone Kashmiri, 47, of Berryville, Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and launder money; 98 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes; 98 counts of money laundering-promotion; and 14 counts of money laundering-spending.
Farhat Jabeen Lone Kashmiree, 49, of Berryville, Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and launder money; 98 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes; 98 counts of money laundering-promotion; and 14 counts of money laundering-spending.
Farman Ali, 36, of Berryville, Va., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and launder money; 98 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes; 98 counts of money laundering-promotion; and 14 counts of money laundering-spending.
Malik Ashfir, 43, Bay Shore, N.Y., was charged with one count of conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and launder money; 98 counts of purchasing and receiving contraband cigarettes; 98 counts of money laundering-promotion; and 14 counts of money laundering-spending.
October 6, 2011:
Anjay Patel, 35, of Spatanburg, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; trafficking in contraband cigarettes; and money laundering charges.
Joseph Emmanuel, 38, of Mauldin, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; conspiracy to dispose of cigarettes and not pay federal tax; conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit state tax stamps; trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes; sale or receipt of stolen goods; and money laundering charges.
Viresh Patel, 42, of Moore, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; trafficking in contraband cigarettes; and money laundering charges.
Purvinkumar Patel, 32, of Spartanburg, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; trafficking in contraband cigarettes; and money laundering charges.
Preston McCurley, 26, place of residence not available, was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; conspiracy to dispose of cigarettes and not pay federal tax; conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit state tax stamps; trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes; sale or receipt of stolen goods; and money laundering charges.
Chris Moneyhan, 36, of Spartanburg, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes; conspiracy to commit money laundering; trafficking in contraband cigarettes; and money laundering charges.
Shilpaben Patel, 43, of Spartanburg, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Boss Ramsey, 30, of Cowpens, S.C., was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Phil White, age and place of residence unavailable, was charged with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes.
The investigation of the case was conducted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeb Terrien and Ronald Huber of the Western District of Virginia and are prosecuting the case for the United States with substantial assistance from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.
A Grand Jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
By Roger Bianchini & Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
A long-time Warren County GOP activist is standing by a harshly worded email he sent to dozens of local citizens regarding a requested public endorsement from North River supervisor’s candidate Chris Holloway despite an apparent earlier online offer of campaign assistance.
On Nov. 2nd Warren County Report was forwarded a stinging e-mail from local Republican activist Joe Swiger to Holloway by one of a list of 84 recipients to which it was copied. Swiger, a former Front Royal Electric Department Director and unsuccessful 2010 town council candidate, was concluding what both men admit began as a Facebook “friends” exchange (see related images).
We contacted Holloway about the detailed “No thank you” reply from the longtime local Republican strategist. Holloway said he was reluctant to get into a back and forth with someone not in the race with just a week left before the Nov. 8th election. However Holloway did tell us he was stunned by Swiger’s e-mail reply because he believed Swiger had offered help to his campaign in its final weeks.
Current Front Royal Vice-Mayor Holloway said Swiger initiated recent online contact with him on Facebook. Subsequent contact included a critique of Holloway’s Oct. 25th Candidate’s Forum performance – essentially, “I thought you did well but so did your opponents” – as well as an offer to contact him if Holloway thought there was anything else he, Swiger, could do to help Holloway “hit a second gear” in his North River campaign.
Asked if he perceived his recent Facebook exchange with former Republican Holloway as an offer to help the vice mayor’s Democratic North River campaign, Swiger said simply, “Why would I do that?”
What are ‘friends’ for?
Holloway said he followed up on his perception of the initial Facebook “wall” exchange with a personal Facebook request only Swiger could view asking for a public endorsement. That private communication was sent at 6:53 PM on Oct. 29, just seven minutes after his Facebook “wall” thanks to Swiger’s earlier message of that afternoon.
Three days later on Nov. 1 Holloway and 84 others received this e-mail reply to that private Facebook communication:
“This message is being sent to you in reply to your request for me to write a letter to the newspaper and to phone everyone I know in North River magisterial district to help you be elected to the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
“I can best answer you with these facts in mind: (1) You could have resigned from Council bettering your chances of being elected Supervisor and giving me the chance to be appointed in your place. That’s the normal path for the runner-up in the past Town election, yours truly. The course you took is blatantly selfish. (2) This would have obligated me to your campaign in the district where I lived for quite some time. It would have given me the chance to either accept or refuse the appointment. I would have still been obligated to you either way. (3) Even if you are elected Supervisor you will be ineffective because you would be the only Democrat and there’s little hope for other Democrats to win in this County, in my opinion. (4) I probably will never run again for Council but if you are unopposed or under opposed I would run wide open this time to delete you just like Mr. Hrbek.
“So you know by now my answer to your request. No thank you.
“I will give you this favor: This reply will only go out via e-mail. On Facebook I’m limited to a small word total and on e-mail I only send it to my friends.”
Swiger said he sent the response out early in the morning, around 1 AM, after giving it much thought.
“I sent it. I call it a factual statement and I stand by it,” Swiger said on Nov. 2 of his non-endorsement reply to Holloway.
Holloway raised eyebrows among local Republicans when he jumped from the Republican to Democratic Committee in late July several weeks after failing to make an expected bid for the Republican nomination for North River supervisor. Holloway then drew the ire of local Democrats by garnering his new Party’s nomination over two-term incumbent Glenn White at an Aug. 6 caucus just 10 days after officially resigning from the Republican Committee. Many local Democrats were upset that Holloway’s Democratic caucus support base of 31 was made up of people never previously seen at a Democratic function or meeting. Holloway won the Democratic nomination by a 31-15 margin four days after declaring for the nomination.
Swiger is a long-time local Republican political strategist, with a hand in the political careers of two former mayors, the late Bob Traister and Clay Athey, the latter also a multi-term 18th District state House delegate, as well as current supervisor Tony Carter and former supervisor Matt Tederick. Swiger was forced out of his town electric department job in 2002 following a contentious investigation launched by Town Manager Rick Anzolut following a department accident in which lineman Dallas Campbell broke his neck and inaccurate reports about the in-house cause of the accident were initially issued out of the department.
Holloway is opposed in the North District race by Republican Dan Murray and Independent Victor “Tory” Failmezger, the latter with long-time ties to local Democrats.