Judge lets suit against assistant county attorney proceed

A federal judge in Alexandria has ruled that a lawsuit against Assistant Warren County Attorney Daniel Whitten can go forward, forcing Whitten to continue facing accusations of false imprisonment over the arrest of a Fairfax County attorney in a tax delinquency case.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton means the two sides will spend the next few weeks or months combing through documents, interviewing witnesses and trying to find other sources of information that might support their arguments. Another hearing to determine if the case will be dismissed or go to a jury is likely within a few months.

In an interview, Whitten talked confidently of prevailing, despite Hilton’s rejection of Whitten’s request that the case be dismissed. Hilton did dismiss two other defendants, Warren County Treasurer Wanda Bryant and Warren County, from the case.

“It isn’t any kind of impediment to dismissing the case eventually,” Whitten said of Hilton’s ruling against him.

The plaintiff, attorney Michael Ryu of Vienna, accuses Whitten of performing “grossly negligent” work on a case that led to Ryu being arrested in his office on a charge of failing to appear in court to answer questions from Whitten. Whitten was seeking to question Ryu about back taxes owed to the county by a company Ryu was representing.

Court documents identify the company as CS Property, Inc., which had an interest in property located at 451 S. Royal Ave.

Warren County General District Judge W. Dale Houff dismissed the case against Ryu in June 2014 at the request of Whitten.

Ryu says law enforcement officials arrested him in his office about two weeks earlier, creating a scene that left him embarrassed and humiliated by neighbors and bystanders who saw him taken away in a Town of Vienna police car.

Ryu’s attorney, Victor Glasburg of Alexandria, wrote in a complaint that his client later “had to explain his arrest to an irate client who had appeared for a scheduled consultation shortly after Mr. Ryu had been arrested. Mr. Ryu’s wife, who is his law partner, was so shocked and distressed at seeing her husband arrested that she threw up in the restroom immediately thereafter, as Mr. Ryu learned on returning to his distress.”

Glasburg argues that Whitten exceeded his authority in seeking Ryu’s arrest when CS Property did not respond to written questions about the back taxes in question.

Glasburg said Ryu, acting in his capacity as a registered agent for CS Property, should bear no legal responsibility for his client’s refusal to answer Whitten’s questions about back taxes.

Glasburg said in an interview that he sought to hold Warren County and Bryant, along with Whitten, responsible for Ryu’s arrest.

“The county has simply said the buck stops with Whitten,” Glasburg said. “The question was whether the judge was going to let us go beyond the lawyer to the lawyer’s client.”

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