Judge intervenes to allow inmate medicine access

WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County judge said Friday she is planning to issue an unprecedented order that the Rappahannock Shenandoah and Warren County Regional Jail “adequately and properly” tend to the medical needs of an inmate.

General District Judge Amy Tisinger said she would draft the order after hearing testimony from Reece Kirk Varney Jr. and his wife, Mary Jane. The Varneys accused jail authorities of refusing to allow Mary Jane Varney to deliver legally prescribed medication for Reece Varney Jr. while he remains incarcerated.

“I have not done this before, but I will do that in this case,” Tisinger said of the order she intends to issue about Varney’s medical care.

Tisinger said she was making “no assertion” that jail officials are failing to provide adequate treatment for Varney’s health problems but then added: “I am inclined to believe what Ms. Varney is telling me here today.”

Tisinger’s impending order comes after mounting complaints from inmates about access to medication and medical care at the jail. Defense attorneys have spoken privately among themselves about administrative trouble plaguing the jail that they believe is making it harder for their clients to obtain treatment for illnesses.

Varney, 66, of New Market, is facing charges of malicious wounding, hit and run driving and several lesser offenses stemming from a Sept. 5 incident in which he allegedly ran his three-wheeled motorcycle into another man.

Varney’s wife testified that he is taking medication for anxiety, depression and to help him breathe.

“I tried on three occasions to take his medications to the jail, and they wouldn’t take it,” Mary Jane Varney said.

Varney said she received no response from the jail’s nurse when she tried to speak to the nurse during a phone call and a later visit.

Defense attorney David Downes asked Tisinger to change the conditions of Varney’s bail. Downes wanted Varney released from jail and placed under house arrest with an ankle bracelet. Downes said he also wanted Varney to be able to seek medical care from the VA. Varney served two tours with the Navy in Vietnam.

Downes said Varney’s health was “deteriorating as a consequence” of not receiving his medications.
Reece Varney said he had spoken to RSW Regional Jail Superintendent William T. Wilson about not being able to obtain his medications.

“He told me they were short staffed,” Varney said of Wilson.

Wilson said in a telephone interview Friday night that he had spoken to the defendant.

“I did not tell Mr. Varney he did not get medication because we were short staffed,” Wilson said.

Wilson said federal law protecting patient privacy prevented him from speaking about Varney’s medical condition.

Wilson acknowledged that the jail’s Web site has two openings posted for health care workers.

“If we were full of medical staff, I wouldn’t be hiring any more, but two positions are open, yes,” Wilson said.

Tisinger’s decision on Varney’s medical needs followed her rejection of Downes’ request that his client be placed on home detention.

Tisinger cited Varney’s violation of several conditions of bail imposed on him after he was released from jail days after his arrest on Sept. 5. The violations included a ban on alcohol and staying away from James Fields, the victim in the malicious wounding and hit and run case. The bail violations led to Varney being jailed for a second time.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristen Zalenski called Fields to testify about what he described as harassment from Varney that resumed days after the defendant’s release from jail in September.

“Not only did he blow his chance, he blew it within a week,” Zalenski said of Varney.

Zalenski also prevailed at a preliminary hearing that preceded the arguments over Varney’s bail.

Tisinger sent the charges of malicious wounding and hit and run driving to circuit court for possible indictments by a grand jury.

Downes sought to have the malicious wounding charge downgraded to unlawful wounding and argued that Varney was not legally obligated to stop and assist Fields, despite the victim’s injuries.

Fields testified that he and Varney were neighbors who had feuded for several years before they encountered each other at the This N That Country Store at 3199 Senedo Road on Sept. 5. Fields testified that he pulled into the store for a routine visit. After leaving his truck, he looked up and saw Varney headed toward him on the motorcycle.

Fields said the impact with the motorcycle sent him through the bike’s windshield and left him hanging over the handlebars with the front wheel spinning between his legs. Fields said he was also pushed back into the side of his truck.

“I was so damned scared,” Fields said. “All I was trying to do was hang on.”

Fields testified that the motorcycle tire skinned his right leg and left him with bruises on his left leg the following day.

A witness who was fueling his vehicle intervened, Fields testified. But Varney then backed up his motorcycle and hit the witness’ vehicle. Varney then tried to drive off but his motorcycle was no longer operable, Fields said.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Varney after he left the store area and headed south down Va. 42.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com