By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A sordid tale of violence, drugs, prostitution, racial slurs and treachery unfolded Tuesday as the jury trial of a Front Royal man accused of brutally beating another man in a robbery began in Warren County Circuit Court.
The defendant, Randall Wayne Freeman, 34, of 446 Hill St., is charged with robbery, assault and battery as a member of a mob and conspiracy to commit robbery. The case also involves three other defendants, two of whom testified against Freeman on Tuesday.
But the testimony of Brandy Lynn Knight, 28, of 136 Seacock Drive, and Shaumbay Lynn Fuller, 31, of 512 Proctor Lane, came under harsh questioning from Freeman's attorney, Eric Wiseley.
In his opening arguments, Wiseley made clear he would seek to discredit testimony from Knight, Fuller and other prosecution witnesses by zeroing in on their criminal histories, personal behavior and the possibility of leniency from the prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
Wiseley described some of the witnesses arrayed against Freeman as felons, drug addicts, and prostitutes.
"Some are all three," he added.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicholas Manthos told the jury that his witnesses were offered no promises other than unspecified "consideration down the road" in return for their testimony. Manthos's opening argument sketched how Freeman, Knight, Fuller, and a fourth defendant, Dequante Christopher Freeman, 18, of 356 Blue Ridge Ave., met the victim, James Cox, in a darkened alley around Pine Street shortly after 11 p.m. Nov. 16. Dequante Freeman is a nephew of Randall Freeman.
Manthos said the burly Randall Freeman dropped the much shorter, lighter Cox with a single unexpected punch to the head, then picked him up twice, throwing him to the ground each time. Cox, who was carrying a long knife with him, tried to reach for it, but was prevented from doing so when Knight stepped on his arm, Manthos said.
Cox, a Front Royal resident, said he was dazed but eventually regained his senses enough to escape the onslaught and call police, Manthos said. He lost a cell phone and wallet in the attack but held onto his money, which he kept in his front pocket.
Manthos said the attack was preceded by a robbery plot devised by Randall Freeman and the other defendants in a motel room after Knight and Fuller had introduced themselves to Cox at the Gyros Express earlier in the night.
Cox, Fuller and Knight all testified that they had met each other a second time later in the evening at the Gyros Express and that the two women joined Cox in walking to the house of a friend of his as the business closed. All three witnesses said they encountered the Freemans after traveling just a short distance.
Cox testified that he identified Knight and Fuller as assailants in the attack through a police photo lineup, but did not recognize Freeman. Cox said he didn't identify Freeman as the man who started the attack until seeing his picture in the newspaper and later face to face in the courtroom.
Wiseley's questioning suggested that racial prejudice played a role in Cox taking weeks longer to identify Freeman as one of the assailants with Knight and Fuller. Cox is white and Freeman is black.
"Have you ever used the word 'n*****'?" Wiseley asked Cox
"Yes, I've used it," Cox answered.
Cox also admitted that he had used the same term to refer to Randall Freeman, although not to his face.
"So you have a problem with black folks?" Wiseley asked Cox.
"No," Cox replied.
Knight and Fuller testified they were in a same-sex relationship at the time Cox was assaulted. Knight also testified that she had been in a relationship with Randall Freeman for several years, a relationship she described "as friends with benefits." Knight and Fuller also testified they have sometimes taken money for sex with strangers over the years.
Knight said during her first conversation with Cox, she had told him that Fuller would have sex with him when they met later in the night and "me and her would have sex in front of him if that's what he wanted us to do."