Schultz certified: Enviro 'attack' goes to grand jury
A judge found Louis Schultz's use of his car to stop city workers from fixing a sewer line intentional enough to send an attempted malicious wounding charge to a grand jury
"He looked angry and crazy," said Steven Todd Morris, the Charlottesville Public Utilities employee in charge of the April 29 repair on Steephill Street in Woolen Mills.
In Charlottesville General District Court today, Morris described watching a backhoe on Steephill, the narrow, contested street that borders Schultz's Market Street property, when an employee said, "Here comes Mr. Schultz."
Morris said he saw Schultz's car barreling down the hill toward him, jumped out of the way, and told the backhoe operator to put the bucket down as a protective measure. "When I turned around to get away from the car, I could have reached out to touch it with my arm," he said, estimating his distance from the car. "I jumped out of the way, and it was still moving."
After going nose-to-nose with the backhoe, Schultz, testified Morris, remained in his car and took pictures of the scene "with a crazed look on his face."
Schultz did not testify, but his lawyer, Bonnie Lepold, argued that Schultz wasn't trying to "maim, disfigure or kill"–- intent the law requires to secure a conviction–- when he drove his car on Steephill. "It may amount to civil disobedience," Lepold said, "not to a felony."
Judge Robert Downer disagreed, and certified the Class 5 felony charge to an October 18 grand jury. "Clearly, Mr. Morris was extremely frightened," observed Downer.
Not everyone's so convinced that Schultz had mayhem in mind.
"It sounds absolutely ridiculous to me," says radio host Rob Schilling, who arrived at the scene of the dispute in April shortly after Schultz drove his car up to the backhoe.
"I saw workers ambling from the scene," says Schilling, who began videotaping the incident. "I'm sure if they thought they'd be hurt, they'd be scrambling rather than ambling."
Schultz's history of disputes with the city goes back nearly a decade when he was cited for not cutting his grass. Schultz maintained he was creating an environmentally healthier riparian buffer. And in 2006, green-leaning Charlottesville acknowledged the benefits of such buffers in its ordinances.
Shultz also was arrested on Steephill in 2004 when a neighbor tried to pave the murkily titled thoroughfare, part of which Schultz contends he owns.
"I believe this whole thing is about making an example of him," says Schilling, "when he's standing up for his property rights in a visible way. The city is making an example of him."