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Presgraves stepping down as Page County sheriff

Letter states he will resign if health insurance continues through 2009; trial set for March 23

By Sally Voth -- Daily Staff Writer

LURAY -- As he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, Page County Sheriff Daniel W. "Danny" Presgraves is stepping down from his elected position on Monday.

Scheduled to go on trial on 22 counts in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg on March 23, Presgraves submitted his resignation to the Page County Board of Supervisors. The panel accepted it Tuesday, Chairman Tommy LaFrance said.

"Having been born and raised in Page County, I have always loved the peace and tranquility that is found in our valley," a letter dated Feb. 23 from Presgraves to LaFrance says. "Through my chosen avocations, I have continuously strived to keep that very quality that makes it a safe place for our citizens to live. It has been a great honor to serve as your Sheriff."

The letter says that he would resign Monday if the supervisors agreed that health insurance for Presgraves and his wife would be paid through the end of the year.

Presgraves, 46, was arrested last fall after being indicted on charges of violating federal racketeering laws, money laundering, two counts of mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy related to a cockfighting operation, two counts of making false statements to federal investigators, four counts of obstructing a federal grand jury investigation, six counts of obstructing a law enforcement investigation and four counts of violating the civil rights of female subordinates working for the Page County Sheriff's Office.

Combined, the charges carry a maximum 300-plus-year prison term.

The indictment against Presgraves alleges a catalog of criminal behavior -- directing deputies to turn a blind eye to cockfighting in the county, taking bribes from cockfighters, taking bribes from an unnamed corporation, embezzling public funds, and sexually harassing female staffers and later telling them not to reveal that harassment to the grand jury.

The day Presgraves was arrested, he was released on $50,000 bond by Judge B. Waugh Crigler and ordered not to carry out his sheriff's duties, although he could keep the title.

"He's not going to occupy a position of responsibility of that county as a law-enforcement officer under the cloud of this on my watch," Crigler said. "He's not going to parade around Page County under this indictment in a Page County sheriff's uniform. ... He either does what I say, or he goes to jail, plain and simple."

Last month, District Judge Glen E. Conrad denied a motion by Presgraves' attorney to delay his trial so he could have more time to prepare. Conrad noted that Presgraves was still drawing his salary, but not working. Conrad later agreed to delay his trial by one week.

On Wednesday, Presgraves' attorneys, David G. Barger and Linda Schorsch Jones filed another motion for a continuance, according to online court records. It says that the indictment is "incredibly complex, varied and unwieldy."

"The Government has opined that it anticipates calling in excess of 130 witnesses," the motion says. "Defendant's counsel, even though experienced, respectfully submits as an officer of the Court that we need additional time to mount an effective defense to these myriad and complex charges."

Additionally, Schorsch Jones was recently hired as co-counsel and needs more preparation time, it says. The motion also notes that Presgraves has resigned.

Earlier this month, Barger filed motions to dismiss several racketeering counts against Presgraves "as the Government has failed to allege a continuous pattern of related criminal activity, but instead has attempted to string together seemingly unrelated charges over an eight year period merely because the Defendant held the job title of Sheriff at the time."

One of the motions says that "unrelated criminal acts" were incorporated into a racketeering enterprise to get out of statutes of limitations.

"However, this is not an organized crime family, a corrupt agency of government or even a group of co-conspirators," it says. "This is one individual charged with numerous unrelated crimes, who happened to be a public official at the time of commission."

LaFrance said that Maj. Russell Montgomery remains acting sheriff. The county will request that the Circuit Court set a date for a special election.

Contact Sally Voth at svoth@nvdaily.com

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