Serving time: Halfaday sentenced in election fraud case

Four months after pleading guilty to a single count of election fraud following a campaign that crossed the line from zany to criminal, one-time City Council candidate James Halfaday was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail.

"This is a criminal offense that affects every citizen in the City of Charlottesville," Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell told Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire, before spending a considerable amount of time recounting Halfaday's questionable election season behavior that went well beyond the only action resulting in conviction: lying about his residence.

Indeed, Halfaday's campaign could have made riveting fodder for a prime time TV series as the city's first openly gay candidate claimed he was being targeted by homophobes. He also accused a married female campaign volunteer of sexual harassment by text (a charge which was later dropped when Halfaday couldn't produce more than a single blank text message). Later, he claimed injury in what would have made him the lone local casualty of the August 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Mineral, when he alleged that a falling piece of ceiling hit him in the head (and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a neck brace).

The strange stories and inconsistencies just kept coming as he falsely claimed to own the Snap Fitness 24-hour gym on 29 North and listed numerous campaign donors on his campaign registration paperwork. The real Snap Fitness owners came forward, and several alleged donors asserted they hadn't given him a dime.

In the end, however, questionable as those claims may have been, it was Halfaday's Albemarle County residence that's putting him in jail. As previously reported, Halfaday did at one time live in the city but had moved into a county apartment in 2011. The move rendered him ineligible to run for elected office in the city, but Halfaday persisted in his campaign and allegedly lied on his paperwork, listing a city address.

While Worrell read from a letter by Halfaday's therapist claiming that fraud was not premeditated and that the misrepresentation resulted merely from a "desire for acceptance" by a man who suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child, Worrell didn't buy it.

"It absolutely was premeditated," Worrell told the judge, suggesting that while the maximum allowable sentence of 10 years for election fraud might be excessive, a prison term of 18 months to two years would be appropriate.

"He stays in the race all the way to the end," Worrell said, "knowing that he's lying."

In what seemed to be an emotional tangent during the hearing, Worrell criticized media for showing up to cover Halfaday's sentencing in greater numbers than the sentencing of Barry Bowles, the man convicted of second degree murder in January in the death of his wife, Rachel Bowles, and sentenced to 15 years.

Halfaday's attorney, Scott Goodman, objected to Worrell's focus on media coverage and disputed the prosecutor's assessment of an appropriate punishment, suggesting that for a man who wanted to win elected office, becoming a felon– losing the right to vote and the possibility of ever achieving his political dreams– was significant punishment. Furthermore, Goodman pointed out, there are many elected seats in Virginia for which residency is not required.

"It's ridiculous to assert that this was an attempt to corrupt the system," said Goodman.

During the hearing, Halfaday, dressed sharply in a charcoal suit, white shirt, and crimson tie, remained alert, nodding and smiling slightly when each of three character witnesses took the stand on his behalf to describe his kindness and generosity.

"He helped me create a resume and look for a job," said Debra Walker, who met Halfaday when he volunteered at a "re-entry summit" for released convicts. An elderly woman described Halfadays' quick response when he came upon her having a seizure and went beyond calling 911 for the stranger, staying overnight with her in the hospital and making sure she'd gotten home safely the next day. And the manager of a thoroughbred horse farm described how Halfaday was always helpful.

"He loved being around horses, riding tractors, and cutting grass," said Bill Reeves, stressing that Halfaday had never asked for or received payment. "He's just a good person," Reeves said.

Prior to his sentencing, Halfaday spoke on his own behalf.

"I am regretfully sorry that I am here in this position," said Halfaday, asking Hogshire to spare him jail time and stressing that he never took money from any elderly individuals to throw a campaign party– something of which Worrell had accused him.

Hogshire, however, seemed unswayed.

"This is bigger to me than embezzling," said Hogshire, pointing out the endorsements Halfaday elicited from well-known locals including former Charlottesville Sheriff Cornelia Johnson and City Councilor Julian Taliaferro.

"You betrayed some people," Hogshire told him, before handing down the sentence. In addition to the prison time– five years with all but 60 days suspended– Halfaday must serve 40 hours of community service. In addition, he received 18 months supervised probation followed by 10 years "good behavior." He reports to jail on July 27.

Following the hearing, Worrell declined comment.

Goodman, however, said his client "realizes the judge was merciful" and added that the timing of the sentencing during the lead-up to an election makes sense as a deterrent for anyone else considering election highjinks.

"It's a message courts send from time to time," Goodman said.

Correction: Barry Bowles was sentenced to 15 years in the 2010 stabbing death of his wife, Rachel Bowles. Also clarified five-year sentence for Halfaday with all but 60 days suspended.–ed

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23 comments

I would not be surprised that he said he was gay in order to get votes.

"In the end, however, questionable as those claims may have been, it was Halfaday's Albemarle County residence that's putting him in jail"

But Maurice Jones gets a pass? Maybe he would finally move to the city if he faced the threat of spending 60 days in jail.

To quote the famous WW2 General McAuliffe

"NUTS"

Not only did the media not show up for the Bowles hearing, they apparently can't even report the correct facts. Barry Bowles received FIFTEEN, not ten, years for second degree murder. FYI, he stabbed poor Rachel 16 times, so not even a year per wound was imposed.

@Kathryn: I have corrected his sentence. It's true that the Hook was not at the Bowles sentencing. We did note the discrepancy in media coverage between the Bowles and Huguely cases in an essay by a potential juror: http://www.readthehook.com/102802/juror-206-sad-tale-two-charlottesville...

I regret that I didn't attend Bowles' sentencing. It's something I will be thinking about as we cover crime and courts in the future.--Courteney Stuart

' "He stays in the race all the way to the end," Worrell said, "knowing that he's lying." '

Ah, but a shrewd question that might have better been posed was "did he make a difference?"

' -"It's ridiculous to assert that this was an attempt to corrupt the system," said Goodman." '

Oh honestly, how can you attempt to corrupt something already breaching corrupt? He didn't afterall make it beyond the City's Democrat Primary. Although, wasn't it suggested, an interpretation of the primary ballots (for third spot on party ticket) was narrow between Paul Beyer and Dee Dee Smith? Who's not to say we might have wound up instead with a Councilor Beyer or Councilor Fenwick?

' -"This is bigger to me than embezzling," said Hogshire, pointing out the endorsements Halfaday elicited from well-known locals including former Charlottesville Sheriff Cornelia Johnson and City Councilor Julian Taliaferro.'

Yet if you stick by and account for your words, that's a measure others will always size you up by. Bigger than embezzling? If what is being embezzled is honor, well sure. Look at the public example in how relative the UVa's Honor Code is being upheld today. Where was the integrity in disappointing endorsements from a former city sheriff and former city hall councilor? What about the let down with those representative of local diversity too? What about the city neighborhood (Fry's Spring) he was suppose to be living in also? Oh the list Judge Hogshire could have potentially gone on with.

You may not favor the way in how parts of the government are run. However, that is no license to slight what public trust may remain. Halfaday has provided a sonorous example towards a self-inclined diminishment with it. Given disposition by the court of public opinion, seems there was little here to even begin with.

@ CC

Maurice Jones has never claimed he lived in the City in order to be eligible to run for an elected position in Charlottesville, thereby breaking an actual law that's punishable by jail.

He was appointed to the position of City Manager with the understanding that while he currently lives in the County, he will eventually move into the city. He never lied about what his residence was. No laws were broken.

If you're not able to see the difference between the two situations, then I don't know what to tell ya.

If somebody has an issue with the fact that the city manager position is being occupied by somebody who lives in the county, then put blame where blame is due - on the councilors who knowingly appointed him at that time. They would be: Dave Norris, Holly Edwards, Satyendra Huja, Dave Brown and Kristin Szakos.

Being that three of the guilty parties are still on Council, and one of them is now the new mayor, means you're more than welcome to attend city council meetings held the first and third Mondays of every month to voice your opposition to this situation. Versus being a snarky keyboard warrior making bad analogies on the Hook's comments section. ;)

Rumor has it two counselors, who shall remain nameless, had at one point been trying to get Maurice fired as City Manager, for the main reason you cited, but they couldn't get that third vote of consensus.

*Clarification -

"No laws were broken (that are punishable by jail.)" The only thing that was broken was a city rule that says city managers must reside within city limits. But it's not a criminal offense that one can go to jail for.

I agree with teh earlier poster about Maurice Jones being like Halfaday. He DID take a job knowing that one of its requirement was that he live in the city. Wasn't the requirement changed only after he failed to live up to it? He was even offered extra pay to help him move from what I recall and has still not lived up to his obligation. SInce the City Manager has far more power than City Councilors do, it seems that the punishment for what Jones has done (failed to do really) ought to be at least at much as the punishment for failing to get into power and not living in the city. Betrayal is a valid reason for punishment or so this judge suggests. Jones has betrayed at least as many people as Halfaday did but he has been rewarded. Boo is right about city council sharing blame for that.
.

@ Jenn Silv

I'm not sure why people aren't getting the difference between Maurice Jones and James Halfaday. You can't even compare Maurice to Halfaday. They don't even belong in the same sentence together. Maurice never lied about where he lives. James Halfaday did. Maurice's position isn't elected, and so therefore there was no election fraud. James Halfaday was running for council. (and knowingly and purposely committed numerous lies, including fudging details about campaign donations. It was to the point where one had to wonder what *didn't* Halfaday lie about.) Maurice Jones didn't break any laws that one can go to jail for. James Halfaday did. So far Maurice is merely in violation of a city rule that says he needs to move into the city, and for all we know that's already in the process of happening, or maybe he has already moved. I don't know. But the bottom line is, City Council gave him permission to be doing what he's doing, including granting him extensions, and then agreeing to look the other way when those extensions came and went. So at least we agree that the blame lies with them. Council is at fault there.

Easy boooo!, JennSilv sees it but just wants to harp about Maurice's not living in the city. He doesn't have to move into the city limits as long as Council allows him not to just like Occupy Charlottesville was allowed to stay in Lee Park as long Council wanted to. It is clear that the judge has respect for the law and Council doesn't. BTW, are you aware that Council changed the City Code before it hired Paige Barfield so that the Clerk of Council does not have to be a city resident? The Clerk is privy to all of those closed door sessions and Council has a great deal of those. We residents do not have that privilege.

@ Cville Eye

I agree that this city's council likes to engage in shady rule changing on a whim, but then I'm left wondering why citizens vote for these people in the first place. And why the citizens just sit back and let this stuff go on.

Isn't there a way to get a councilor booted out of office for doing stuff like that?

@The_BlueSpade who is Mr. Scott A. Bandy

It was released on official court records that you had contacted Commonwealth Attorney Claude Worrell's office and made a statement the Worrell's Office that Mr. Halfaday was soliciting you to compose a letter against the City of Charlottesville Registrars Office for a defense? Inquiring minds would like to know what prompted you to come forward out of your busy schedule to make a claim to the Commonwealth's Office regarding Halfaday. Doug

Some people say that recall votes are aloud in VA but our Council has been buying votes for years so that they will never be voted out. That's why so many people are given tax payer money. If they want to continue feeding at the trough they have to keep these people. Of course do not support everything that Council does but they are afraid if they speak out their favorite recipient of government largesse may suffer later by a lack of funding. If you watch Council meetings have you noticed how thsoe speakers from the public fawn over Council? Of course Councilors love it. "What a great job you're doing" Belmont Bridge is scheduled to be a mess for years. "You work so hard." Passing a bunch of resolutions dealing with foreign and national affairs. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak and for your listening." You didn't shut me down before my 3 minutes are up and Szakos did not interrupt me.

Wow Mr. Hanson, you sure don't stumble upon prime news items like this on local channels 16, 19 and 29! My identity is as much no secret this moment as it was during the 2011 election. Now that you got this horse outside, let's get some facts straight about the words from its mouth:

1. You say (here) I contacted Commonwealth Attorney (CA) Claude Worrell's office, within a question that runs on and about runs off the page. I'd sure like to see the exact released court record you refer to. So unless the CA and the Voter Registrar of this city both share the precise same desk, I did not see nor have I been yet to be seen by Mr. Worrell.

2. By all means - let's satiate salaciously inquiring minds. Yes, I contacted an official. That official was Sheri Iachetta though and the matter was related to how the Registrar's office was with processing filed election campaign finance reports. Was it "to make a claim to the Commonwealth's Office regarding Halfaday" as you (Doug) charge? Shake-up and turn your magic eight ball around there sonny and "ask again."

3. Might it have been the how (in specific, the manner of filing election forms (either electronic or paper) that instigated the investigative action, such as what went through the Registrar's Office? I filed via paper-trail method. How did Halfaday file?

4. Different individuals and different experiences in filing distinct seperate required election campaign finance reports. On this, why don't you ask whether: Satyendra Huja, Kathy Galvin, Colette Blount, Dee Dee Smith, Paul Beyer, Bob Fenwick, Brandon Collin, Andrew William or Paul Long encountered discrepencies, in filing their reporting forms?

Now Doug, if parts of anything I brought to the Registrar's attentions were taken to the CA, that was something not head-on and firsthand compeled on purpose by me.

Mr. Halfaday doesn't belong in jail, he is obviously mentally ill and needs treatment and therapy. He wanted attention and took extraordinary measures to get it but it wasn't driven by greed or malice. The prosecuting attorneys who decided to criminalize and imprison this poor man have too much time on their hands and have very little judgement to be in the position they are in. How many others who are mentally ill have they prosecuted and imprisoned? Now that is a crime.

@The_BlueSpade

Mr. Worrell's Office must have a wild imagination to have your statement that you provided in regards to Halfaday contacting you for a defense. The question that was posed is as follows from my previous post. "

"Mr. Halfaday was soliciting you to compose a letter against the City of Charlottesville Registrars Office for a defense?"

Is this letter true?
What was the defense that Halfaday was trying to prove?
What compelled you to make a statement to the City Registrar about Halfaday requesting a letter for a possible defense from you.
How would this document or claim turn up in court documents and Commonwealth's records?

If you did not contact the Commonwealth Attorney and only the Registrar how could there be a matter of that registrars office knowing whether you were asked for a letter of defense by Halfaday as you claim that you only spoke to about "campaign finance reports" in your previous posts. Doug

@ glo

I agree with you about Halfaday clearly having some sort of mental illness. From what I've personally seen and heard of him he's delusional, and lying is a compulsion. Lies just spill out of his mouth or burst forth from his fingers to the computer keyboard with no regard for the fact that nowadays people can easily fact check any claim that one makes about one's personal background. It's like there's a disconnect with his brain in terms of "consequences for one's actions." For him it's speak first, think later.....if at all.

However......I'm glad to see he was prosecuted as a criminal and will have to spend some time in jail. So I disagree with you there. Maybe this will be the wake up call and motivator for him to finally get the help he so clearly needs. From what I've seen he just roams around lying about himself and his background and achievements, trying to deceive his way into situations. It needs to stop. And I'm glad Charlottesville was the one to stop it. This will go on his permanent record, and there is now no chance that he'll be able to lie and finagle his way into some future political position because this will forever be cached on the internet.

This world has gotten too soft on sociopaths and mentally unbalanced types who lie and hoodwink people for personal benefit and gain. More people need to step up and head these situations off at the pass and be tough about it. Personally I feel 60 days in jail still isn't long enough. James Halfaday is a small timer who is a microcosm of many of the bigger, richer and more well connected mentally ill and/or socipathic predators that manage to make it to the upper echelons of our society, running corporations, banks and even countries. Halfaday just happened to get caught because he wasn't a rich boy from a well connected family. Imagine if he had been though. Scary thought. But we're surrounded by those types, as they're the ones running the world. (into the ground.)

I'm glad people were smart enough to recognize that something is off about this guy, I'm glad he came in dead last in the Council elections, I'm glad he got caught in all his lies, I'm glad he was prosecuted, I'm glad the dude's going to jail, and I'm glad he won't be able to pull his nonsense on any other towns in the future. Dude needs to get help, then go lay low and stay out of the way.

booooo! Much of what you wrote in your last post could be said about why I think it's important that people speak up about the betrayal of the public by our city manager Maurice Jones. It may not be illegal, but that doesn't make it right.

"Halfaday is a small timer who is a microcosm of many of the bigger, richer and more well connected mentally ill and/or socipathic predators that manage to make it to the upper echelons of our society, running corporations, banks and even countries. Halfaday just happened to get caught because he wasn't a rich boy from a well connected family. Imagine if he had been though. Scary thought. But we're surrounded by those types, as they're the ones running the world. (into the ground.)"

@ Doug Hanson

"Mr. Worrell's Office must have a wild imagination to have your statement that you provided in regards to..."

Again with the "you provided." What is there about "NO" that you do not understand Mr. Hanson! I gave no direct statement to Mr. Worrell. Now if an indirect one happened to be procured, it was done despite my self-consciousness.

"Mr. Halfaday was soliciting you to compose a letter against the City of Charlottesville Registrars Office for a defense?"

I'm breaking down this question of your conspiratorial interrogation here:

1. Soliciting? I suspect you already have a set bias toward me.

2. "compose a letter?" You're making this come across like I was trying to be commisioned

3. "against the City of Charlottesville Registar's Office" Two individuals can both look at the same picture and yet have seperate and entirely wide varying views of it. The picture in this case was how the Registrar's Office handled and processed candidate campaign finance fillings.

"If you did not contact the Commonwealth Attorney and only the Registrar how could there be a matter of that registrars office knowing whether you were asked for a letter of defense by Halfaday as you claim that you only spoke to about "campaign finance reports" in your previous posts."

Yes, I claimed I spoke about "campaign finance reports." During the 2011 election, I confidentially shared emails (there's one problem - e-mails were exchanged) and compared notes with several of the other candidates. Mr. Halfaday was one among them. However, when Mr.Halfaday's residency in Fry's Spring was called into doubt, communication gradually fell off with him. Oh and Doug, I LIVE IN FRY'S SPRING!

In one electronic exchange with Mr. Halfaday, a comparison was mentioned of difficulties with the Registrar's Office. Halfaday's claim was this office lost his paperwork filings. Mine at most were the fact that, the underscore in my e-mail address was ommitted time to time from lists the Registrar's Office made available. No similar comparison there at all. I struggled to work with the Registrar's Office. Obviously, James struggled much more to try and work with the Registrar's Office.

From the get go, candidates are responsible for filing these reports (whether on paper or by an approved Board of Election's electronic method) and BEING SURE TO GET A RECIEPT VERIFYING THEIR FILING EACH TIME.

Now Mr. Hanson, I realize you are a cornacopia of questions and incremental aspersions. I am also quite accepting of no matter what I say, you simply won't believe. I've been honest and told you what I know. Take it in whatever the hell way you want. Don't be shocked that you might even be more informed perhaps. However, don't for one moment let it be your license to serve as another judge and jury.

Thanks Booo for sharing your thoughts even though your line of thinking represents a view that is completely against the human rights of the mentally ill -- what Halfaday did was a cry for help, he was the only real victim, society wasn't harmed at all until the judge rendered his sentence, now we are all complicit in the imprisonment of someone who is mentally ill. When he graduates from prison he may escalate his actions into real criminal activity thanks to our societies' policy of imprisonment of the mentally ill.

Halfaday knew exactly what he was doing. I wouldn't call him ill,stupid,or a pathological liar maybe.
What I can't understand is why he went to all that trouble. Usually when someone runs a scam they hope for money or some form of material gain.Won't get rich being on City Council, or much prestige either.
He knowingly broke the law and must face the consequences.Judge Hogshire was right.
Maybe Halfaday was like what Harry Truman said about Richard Nixon- he didn't know the difference between telling a lie and telling the truth.

I personally think he may be nuckin' futz.