Charlottesville Breaking News

Big reveal: Judge demands cop's tale in wheelchair case

The cop-hitting-the-wheelchair case moved a step closer to trial on thte morning of Wednesday, August 31 as a judge in Charlottesville Circuit Court ordered Albemarle County to produce a statement made by County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis that could shed light on his texting activities immediately before the 2007 crosswalk accident in which he struck Gerry Mitchell in his wheelchair.

"This is about the integrity of the investigative process," argued assistant County attorney Andy Herrick seeking to quash a subpoena for the record, claiming that the release of such a confidential document could have a "chilling effect" on future internal investigations and meant for Officer Davis a "major invasion of privacy."

Furthermore, Herrick noted, Mitchell's attorneys entered into an agreement with the County early on in the case permanently withdrawing their subpoena for the entire investigative file in exchange for the statement Davis made at the scene of the accident.

That agreement, insisted Mitchell attorney Richard Armstrong, should be nullified since "critical" information about Davis' texting and the statement in the internal file wasn't available.

"We were kept in the dark and made an agreement in the dark," said Armstrong, telling visiting Judge Gaylord L. Finch (hearing the case due to the potential for conflict with a...

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Hardee's hoodlums? Five arrested for strong arm robbery

The Albemarle County Police have arrested five men in connection with an alleged attempted strong-arm robbery that took place at the Hardee’s in the Pantops Shopping Center on August 30. All are being held without bond at the Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail.

This is the case in which the men were not alleged to be robbing the business, but just a patron– a patron fighting back with pepper spray.

The men charged are Joe Thompson, 33, with no fixed address; Steven Caldwell, 30, with no fixed address; Gregory Woodson, 26 of Charlottesville; William Johnson II, 30, with no fixed address; and John Jordan, 46, with no fixed address. All have all been charged with robbery.

The Albemarle County Police encourage anyone who may have witnessed this incident to contact the Police Department at 434-296-5807 or Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.

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What's next: Is the quake just the beginning?

Unless you were in the presence of a perceptive animal– and there were scattered reports of skittish dogs– it came without warning four seconds after 1:51pm on a sunny Tuesday, August 23. At 5.8 on the Richter scale, it was the biggest earthquake to hit Central Virginia during human habitation, the biggest in Virginia in the era of measured earthquakes, and, according to the state geologist, taking note of reports stretching from Canada to South Carolina, "the most-felt earthquake in human history."

Like Hurricane Camille, which struck Central Virginia in 1969, it would be several days before the extent of the damage became known. Most severely hit were schools and houses in Louisa County, a place that's home to about 33,000 people– and one very strong earthquake.

Shawn Lawson's husband was in the shower of their rented home when the pink ceramic tiles suddenly began popping off the wall. Outside, the porch roof collapsed. And inside, Lawson huddled over a nephew and grandson as the walls cracked and the chimney tumbled onto a picnic table in the yard.

"I don't know that it's liveable," said Lawson of the house, pointing to myriad cracks a few hours after the big shake.

Scenes of lost chimneys, cracked walls, and shifted foundations were repeated across Louisa. Within days, officials had tallied the property damage at nearly $7 million. And that doesn't count the schools, two of which have been ruled out of service for the dura...

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Stalking, assault: Charges against UVA law student dismissed

Third-year UVA law student Daniel Watkins walked out of Albemarle General District Court without the stalking and assault charges that had followed him since his May arrest. On August 30, Judge William Barkley granted a defense motion to strike the charges brought by a female law student whom Watkins had dated for about a year.

Barkley ruled that Watkins' alleged threats to kill the girlfriend if she ever dated or had sex with another man were undermined by her courtroom testimony that she didn't believe him when he supposedly made the statements in February.

As for the stalking charge, the judge noted that the former paramour initiated contact when she texted Watkins twice after she'd gotten a letter of no contact from a dean, and that the two supposedly offending encounters– one in the Law School parking lot and the other at a Student Bar Association event at the Foxfield steeplechase races– were "nothing sinister" given that the two attended the same school.

In court, Watkins was accompanied by his law school friend, Johnathan Perkins, the man who admitted to a high-profile fabrication of a tale of police harassment in May, and also by his father, Anthony Watkins, who said after the charges were thrown out, "It's been our prayers th...

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Tritium trouble? Nuke fears rise with quake, self-policing

After the nuclear catastrophe that followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last spring, some Central Virginia activists cautioned that a similar nightmare could unfold right here at the Dominion-operated North Anna nuclear generating plant in Louisa County. Despite Dominion's assurances that the plant made it through the August 23 earthquake unscathed, activists contend that the quake, which measured 5.8 on the Richter Scale and had an epicenter just eleven miles from the plant, may have been more catastrophic than anyone is admitting. New information bolsters their fears.

On Monday, August 29, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that the quake may, in fact, have produced force that exceeded the North Anna plant's specifications and that the Commission is sending a special Augmented Inspection Team to assess the damage.

"Initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed," says the release, which also assures that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified."

That's small consolation to one prominent nuclear watchdog, who says it's not what's above ground that gives him the greatest concern.

"Central to the issue is mil...

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