Quash game: How many subpoenas does a code violation need?

Some defense attorneys in murder cases don't issue as many subpoenas as attorney Fred Payne has in his defense of alleged razor-wire stringer Shirley Presley.

Presley isn't even up on capital charges. The city has cited her for stringing concertina wire across her property to discourage Rivanna Trail hikers from walking on her property. That's a Class I misdemeanor, punishable with a fine up to $2,500 and/or up to one year in jail.

For that, Payne has issued 13 subpoenas, including one to Hook reporter Courteney Stuart, who wrote about Presley's battles with trail hikers in 2002 and 2003.

Nine of those ordered to appear in court on June 29 are city employees. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Platania has filed motions to quash those subpoenas, which will be heard in Charlottesville General District Court June 21.

Among those city employees subpoenaed: City Manager Gary O'Connell, Deputy City Attorney Lisa Kelley, planning chief Jim Tolbert, and Police Chief Tim Longo.

"The reason I'm moving to quash those subpoenas is he has to show their testimony would be material and favorable to the defense," explains Platania.

City Councilor Kevin Lynch isn't sure why he got an order to appear in court. "I met with Ms. Presley once or maybe twice," he recalls. "We were really working on a way to resolve this."

Lynch says he proposed an easement where the trail cuts through the edge of her property, which he estimates at about four feet wide. For that Presley could receive a deduction on her property tax bill.

But because tax credits are based upon the amount of land placed under easement– and this was such a small piece– Lynch found she could only get about $700 or $1,000 for her riverfront swath. He suggested going to the General Assembly to try to get more.

"She referred me to her lawyer," says Lynch. "His attitude was belligerent. It was pretty clear he's not interested in a compromise."

Payne did not return a call from The Hook by press time.

And there's one other thing that puzzles Lynch: "I don't see what this has to do with the fact that city ordinance says you can't put razor wire in a flood plane."

Not everyone on Payne's subpoena list is a reluctant witness. In fact, Presley neighbor Carolyn Reilly, a missionary, is flying in from an Indian reservation in South Dakota to support Presley and her property rights in court.

Reilly has lived on Bland Circle for over 30 years. "There have always been people who wanted to fish there," she says. "Those who were gracious enough to ask were always granted permission."

A "no trespassing" sign and brush pile– sans razor wire– appear on Reilly's end of the 145-foot stretch of trail that that adjoins Presley's tiny corner. Reilly says she didn't pile the brush there, but defends her right to do so, "There's no law that says I can't put brush on my property," she declares.

And while she has no plans to string razor wire, "If I wanted to, I would."

Former school teacher Reilly has no fears that children or pets could be injured on the wire, which is coiled on the ground under a sign warning, "Danger, razor wire, stay out."

"Nobody is going to send their little children down there," she insists. And she points out that pets in the city are not supposed to be running loose. "I do not consider that a hazard. All we want is privacy and the right to use our property."

Reilly decries the abuse she says has been heaped upon her friend and neighbor. "I'm not a tight-fisted, cranky old lady as Mrs. Presley has been portrayed," says Reilly.

She acknowledges things might have worked out differently had the Rivanna Trail Foundation asked for permission to use the ladies' lands for the trail 10 years ago– something that organization neglected to do.

But today, when "young women are raped at UVA," Reilly sees a far more dangerous place, and she's loath to have strangers tramping through her property. "It's a different world," she says. "It's scary."


Saving privacy for Reilly: This side of the brush pile does not come with razor wire.

PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

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