Charlottesville Breaking News

Huguely hearing: Mum on medical records, no TV in court

On Monday, November 7, the public got a taste of what's to come during a hearing on motions concerning the medical records of slain UVA student Yeardley Love. As attorney for alleged killer George Huguely, Fran Lawrence, made his argument for gaining access to the medical records and said that Huguely didn't know Love was dead when he left her, and that there "was very little blood" at the scene, his statements prompted an immediate objection from Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.

"I'd like to ask the judge to take control of proceedings here," Chapman demanded. "This is more like an opening statement."

Love, a fourth-year student weeks from graduation, was found dead in her apartment May 3, 2010, from what the medical examiner called blunt force trauma.

In a hearing in December, Judge Robert Downer agreed Huguely's attorneys could see records relating to her use of Adderall, a commonly prescribed stimulant, which was found in her blood, but would not allow "a fishing expedition."

Chapman argued for the closed hearing as a way to "stop additional evidence" from coming to light, and "spin on the case" of the kind that Lawrence let slip. Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire grants the medical records motion, but then asked reporters, s...

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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....

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Unusual outcome: $722K in sanctions, juror judges judge

Nearly a year after a jury made one of the largest wrongful death awards in Virginia, the plaintiff and his attorney have seen the $10.6 million slashed– and been hit with one of the largest sanctions in Virginia legal history. And there's another nearly unprecedented development in the case stemming from the concrete truck rollover that killed Jessica Scott Lester four years ago: a juror has issued a written critique of the judge.

On October 21, ten months after a Charlottesville jury awarded widower Isaiah Lester $8.6 million– $2.35 million for his personal injuries and $6.227 million as the beneficiary of Jessica's estate–  and Jessica Lester's parents, Gary and Jeanne Scott, $1 million each, Judge Edward Hogshire signed the final order in Lester v. Allied Concrete. Citing misconduct by plaintiff's attorney Matt Murray and Isaiah Lester for spoliation– destruction– of evidence, Hogshire ordered that Murray pay $542,000 to the defense's law firm and that Lester pay $180,000.

"That sounds like the largest sanction I've ever heard of in Virginia," says Hook legal expert David Heilberg of Murray's amount; of Lester's, he says: "Yikes."

Still, it's less than the more than $900,000 in added legal costs the D.C...

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'Natural Selection': Meanie 'Hangover' actress plays nice

Rachael Harris can play mean, and in the 2009 smash hit Hangover, she plays really mean as Melissa, the girlfriend of Ed Helms' character, Stu.

"My agent was getting calls for me to play the shrew," says Harris. "You can get pigeon-holed."

She's already been a bit pigeon-holed into comedy ever since joining the Groundlings, the legendary Los Angeles improv troupe, and over the past decade she's appeared in sitcoms such as Reno 911, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Desperate Housewives.

"As much as I love sitcoms, can we try to branch out?" asks Harris in a chat about her upcoming visit to Charlottesville and her role in Natural Selection. That's the new indie film that scored big at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, and which she describes as a "coming of age" movie about a woman in her 40s.

"You don't see scripts like that," says Harris, who plays Linda White, a devout Christian in a childless marriage whose husband has a stroke in a sperm bank, to which he's been a regular depositor for the past 25 years.

"I really connected with Linda," says Harris. "She journeys from a very small town and has a trusting personality. I grew up in a small town, and I know what it's like to want to believe there's something good in everyone."

Her upcoming appearance at the Virginia Fil...

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Hazardous act: UVA grad had 'JFK' moment

Sarah Lyman Kravits, UVA class of 1988, was in grad school in Washington when she was picked for a few moments of screen time in Oliver Stone's 1991 film, JFK. "Oliver Stone wanted everyone smoking," remembers Kravits, a nonsmoker. "I was trying to concentrate on not looking like an idiot smoking."

The nonsmokers were given clove cigarettes. "They were making me feel ill," says Kravits in a phone call from New Jersey, where she now lives. "I didn't want to put it out because I wasn't very good at lighting cigarettes."

Ten takes later, they had the scene in which Donald Sutherland walks through the Pentagon past Kravits, who plays a general's secretary and waves him into a smoke-filled meeting room.

"Oliver Stone kept calling me 'honey,'" says Kravits. Sutherland was quite a character– and shoeless, she reveals, although that wasn't visible to viewers.

Kravits has moved from drama to parenthood and textbook writing, but she fondly remembers her bouffant-haired stint as an extra in JFK, which will have a 20th anniversary screening with Stone at this year's Virginia Film Festival.

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