Halfaday balks: Charges dropped against campaign worker
Since entering Charlottesville politics earlier this year, James Halfaday has cut a wide– and, at times, bizarre– swath. Besides the fact that he now faces election fraud charges over his run for City Council, his post-campaign claim that a female volunteer with an opponent's campaign made him fear for his life raised eyebrows when he made the allegation in August. The case was thrown out of court Monday, but that still leaves the now-vindicated accusee, Nina Gregory, traumatized, according to her attorney.
Following his last-place finish in the Democratic primary, Halfaday, who's openly gay, obtained an emergency protective order against the married Gregory, a Democratic volunteer for another candidate. Alleging that Gregory had sent him 134 text messages, Halfaday claimed the woman made numerous phone calls and finally on August 23 (the same day Halfaday claims to be knocked unconscious during an earthquake), sent this message: "I love you. I want to be there. I've got a knife for us."
"There's absolutely no truth to these allegations," Gregory told the Hook August 29, the day she was arrested for allegedly violating a 72-hour emergency protective order. A judge had already refused to grant Halfaday a longer protective order.
Special prosecutor Jeff Haislip dropped the charge November 7 in Charlottesville General District Court.
"I dismissed it because the complaining witness decided he didn't want to pursue it," says Haislip. Also, the evidence– one blank text message– was de minimis, says Haislip, which means even if sent, it was too minor to justify prosecution.
As for the 134 allegedly threatening texts, Haislip said he didn't see any. There were Facebook exchanges between the two, says Haislip, but he doesn't recall any mention of a knife.
Neither Halfaday nor his attorney, Scott Goodman, returned a reporter's phone calls at press time.
"I believe she was charged improperly," says Andrew Sneathern, Gregory's attorney. "It's been very traumatic for her. It's very difficult when someone has said something that impacts your reputation."
Sneathern thinks it's significant that the charge was dismissed, a more permanent rejection than, say, nolle prosequi, which allows subsequent refiling.
Halfaday currently faces four felony counts of election fraud for allegedly using a false address when certifying his candidacy. Throughout the primary campaign, he also said he was the owner of the Snap Fitness gym, a claim refuted by an attorney for actual owners Mike and Nancy Hamdani.
Then there's the matter of several $499 contributors listed in a campaign filing. Three of them told the Hook they had never donated money to Halfaday's campaign.
"I think certainly Mr. Halfaday's reputation and truthfulness may have been an issue in this case," says Sneathern. "His credibility as a witness I certainly would have brought up."
Charlottesville Democratic Party co-chair Jim Nix worries about the toll, both emotional and financial, on Gregory.
"I hope she hasn't gotten into debt trying to defend this ridiculous charge," says Nix. "She didn't deserve the attention and all the angst that came with this."
As for Halfaday, Nix say he's perplexed.
"I don't know what his motivations are," says Nix. "He's a very odd person."
Update November 8: The spelling of de minimis is corrected.