By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK -- A Shenandoah County grand jury on Wednesday indicted a Strasburg man for carrying a board bearing the words "high-powered rifle" into Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
Neither Christopher G. Johnson nor his attorney David Silek appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court when the grand jury certified the direct indictment against the defendant. Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Silek said he expected, but did not want to see his client indicted. Johnson is scheduled for his first appearance in the court later this month, Silek said.
Nicholas Manthos, an assistant commonwealth's attorney for Frederick County, serves as the special prosecutor in Johnson's case. Manthos was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley said the grand jury did indict Johnson.
Authorities charged Johnson with disorderly conduct when he took a board bearing the words "high-powered rifle" into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 19. However, shortly before his scheduled trial on Aug. 16 in Shenandoah County General District Court, Manthos asked Judge Amy Tisinger to dismiss the charge. The judge granted the prosecutor's motion without prejudice, which allows the commonwealth to bring back the charge in the future.
Information on Johnson's indictment was not available in the court Wednesday. Information on the state's online database indicated that the grand jury indicted Johnson on a charge of obstruction of justice. However, Silek said he believed the charge more likely was disorderly conduct. Both are misdemeanors.
Silek said he and his client were not issued bench warrants to appear in the court for the grand jury indictment.
"We suspected it would happen but I did not want it to happen because I think it opens up Pandora's Box, and now we are going to have to ask for a special grand jury to investigate the sheriff because I specifically asked Mr. Manthos to take action on this and he said, 'I have no comment.' So that means they're doing nothing," Silek said. "Unless we can reach a stipulation with the special prosecutor, it will again be necessary to subpoena large numbers of staff from the school who can come in and testify that they weren't even aware of [the incident], which will put an unnecessary burden on the school and unfortunately disrupt the school day."
Silek claims his client asked officers who came to arrest him to allow the school staff to clear the hallways of pupils before taking him out to cruisers. Instead, the halls remained filled. Two faculty members tried to clear the hallway.
"On my client's behalf we are going to now have to be forced to seek criminal charges against the sheriff for disorderly conduct and/or curse and abuse," Silek said.
Silek said he reported the actions of the Sheriff's Office to Wiseley and to Manthos that he "believes constitute a crime." Prosecutors have not taken action on Silek's claims, he said. Silek said he now plans to go before Judge Dennis Hupp in November and ask that he convene a special grand jury.
"I'm tired of playing this game," Silek said.
"The sheriff opened the squad car door after my client had been handcuffed in the school, escorted to the car, put in the car, door closed," Silek said. "The sheriff then, according to my client, opened the door when he arrived ... and the sheriff cusses my client to kingdom come.
"That is a violation of Virginia law. I don't care if you're in custody or standing on the sidewalk," Silek added. "No one, including law enforcement, has a right to open up a car in which you're confined and cuss you out."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org