Woman charged in VFW fire, theft gets new attorney

Leslie Deavers

FRONT ROYAL – A judge appointed a new attorney Monday to represent a woman accused of stealing from a veterans group and setting fire to their headquarters.

Leslie Rose Deavers appeared in Warren County Circuit Court where she stands charged with embezzlement from the Front Royal chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and with two counts of arson related to a fire that destroyed the organization’s home in town.

The court had scheduled her three-day jury trial to begin on Monday. However, David A. Downes, Deavers’ attorney since her indictment in February 2017, withdrew as legal counsel Aug. 20. Downes’ motion granted by the court states that he is now a witness for prosecutors in a separate criminal investigation involving the attorney.

Judge Clifford A. Athey found that Deavers qualifies for court-appointed counsel. He appointed Winchester attorney Jason Ransom to represent Deavers. Athey also rescheduled her jury trial to begin March 4, 2019. Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden told the judge prosecutors had subpoenaed a number of witnesses, some of whom work in federal agencies.

Ransom said he would consult Downes to acquire any discovery evidence he had collected for the case.

Athey told Ransom he would also likely appoint the defense attorney to represent Deavers on any subsequent charges the commonwealth might file against her pertaining to the investigation involving Downes. No new charges have been filed against Deavers, according to the local courts.

“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,'” Downes’ motion to withdraw 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).”

Deavers, 57, of 102 Rugby St., Front Royal, remains free on a $25,000 secured bond. The grand jury indicted Deavers,  charging her with embezzling more than $200 from the organization and two counts of arson of an occupied building on July 11, 2015.