Attorney withdraws in VFW arson, theft case

FRONT ROYAL – A lawyer withdrew this week from representing a woman accused of stealing from a local veterans group and  setting fire to its headquarters.

Leslie Ann Deavers stands charged with one count of embezzling more than $200 from the Front Royal chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars between Jan. 1, 2014 and May 1, 2015, and two counts of arson of an occupied building on July 11, 2015. Deavers remains free on a $25,000 secured bond while she awaits trial. A grand jury indicted Deavers on the three charges Feb. 6, 2017.

But Deavers, 57, of 102 Rugby St., Front Royal, could face a new charge in which her attorney since February 2017 is involved. The commonwealth’s attorney claims Deavers used her lawyer’s services to commit a separate crime. No new charges have been filed against Deavers in Warren County General District or Circuit Court, records show.

Deaver’s attorney, David A. Downes, filed a motion in Warren County Circuit Court on Aug. 13 requesting to withdraw as counsel for the defendant. Downes stated in his motion that Deavers is the subject of a separate criminal investigation in which he is a witness for prosecutors.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. granted Downes’ motion and scheduled Deavers’ next court appearance for Monday to advise the court as to her attorney arrangements.

“Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct … permits an attorney of record to withdraw if ‘the client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud,'” the motion states. “On Aug. 13, 2018, the Commonwealth has advised the undersigned that the Defendant is suspected of uttering an unauthorized check from a third party in the amount of $1,000 to retain the legal services of (Downes).”

Downes could withdraw without prejudice to Deavers if the commonwealth’s attorney doesn’t object to postponing the trial, provided she waives her right to a speedy trial, the motion states.

“(Downes) takes no position on the validity of the Commonwealth’s claim that the Defendant has used her lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud but is now placed in the untenable position of attempting to zealously represent his client while confronted with proposition that he may be called as an adverse witness against his client,” the motion states.

The court had scheduled a three-day jury trial to start Monday with a hearing on pre-trial motions set for a week prior. The court already rescheduled the trial from March because Downes stated earlier this year that he expected to receive more potential evidence.

Court records show parties had subpoenaed more than a dozen potential witnesses to testify at Deavers’ trial.