Hook reporter subpoenaed in Silva, Austin cases
In the October 11 edition of the Hook, Courteney Stuart reported on an incident that occurred at the corner of Water Street and Second Street SE in which a Charlottesville police officer may have used excessive force in a misdemeanor arrest of a young couple headed for the parking garage after a night out. Now, Stuart has been subpoenaed as a witness in the public swearing and intoxication trials of Richard Silva and his fiancÃ©e, Blair Austin (who has also been slapped with a charge of obstructing justice without force) which starts this morning at 10:35am. But just where was Stuart on the night of September 28?
"I was at home with my kids," she says. "I have no firsthand account of the incident."
So why was Stuart subpoenaed? Though Charlottesville police served Stuart her papers on Thursday, November 8, the answer did not come until this morning with a call from City Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Katherine Peters. "She would need to be available in case any of the defendants or witnesses make a statement different than the one they already gave to Ms. Stuart," says the prosecuting attorney.
Hook editor Hawes Spencer is befuddled. "If a reporter has to go to court everytime they write a story to say that they wrote it, that would be a waste of time and it seems like a waste of court resources," he says.
12:22 update: A "material witness" for the prosecution couldn't show up in Charlottesville General District Court because he's on dialysis and had "a meeting this morning about a transplant," Peters told substitute judge Jannene Shannon. Austin's attorney, David Heilberg, who produced five witnesses of his own today, says that this sort of rescheduling is not par for the course. "It's procedurally unusual," he says. "It seems like the Commonwealth is overreacting on minor charges the same day they've got a capital murder case."
As for Stuart, she has filed a motion in General District Court to be dismissed as a witness, thus allowing her to continue covering the story. She has a hearing scheduled for Monday, November 19 at 9am.