FRONT ROYAL — Circuit Judge James Lane declared a mistrial on Tuesday in the case of a local man accused of maliciously harming a woman in February.
The jury trial for Paul Michael Sullivan, 36, who is accused of repeatedly punching a woman in her face and body in a motel in February, was set to begin on Tuesday morning. After hours of waiting for 28 jurors to report for duty, jury selections were made and the 12-person jury was ready to hear the case. But, when the jury took a short break before hearing opening arguments, a selected juror revealed that she knew Sullivan’s mother, a question neither the attorneys nor the judge asked during jury selection as Sullivan’s mother would not have been a witness in the case.
The juror told the court that she had no prior knowledge of the case, and that she knew Sullivan’s mother as a regular customer at her store. The juror said she believed she could be a fair and impartial juror, but may be uncomfortable afterward depending on the outcome of the case. With no alternate juror selected for the one-day trial, Lang, who had already dismissed all other potential jurors, said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial.
The trial had originally been set for Aug. 22, but was postponed because the victim in this case had been shot in an unrelated incident and was still undergoing treatment.
Sullivan had never waived his right to a speedy trial, and because his preliminary hearing was in early May and he remained in custody during that time, his case had to have been tried by the first week in October, according to state law. Many of the prosecution’s witnesses stated they were going to be unavailable that week to testify in the case. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond decided to drop the malicious wounding charge and bring it to the next grand jury panel.
David Crump, Sullivan’s attorney in this case, objected to the prosecution’s motion to drop the charge and asked that the case be dismissed, saying it’s not Sullivan’s fault that the alleged victim in this case “got shot,” but Lang overruled the objection. Sullivan expressed frustration that his case could go on for an additional five months, and Hammond suggested that he could waive his right to a speedy trial and they could proceed sooner.
“I’m not waiving speedy trial,” Sullivan said, “I’m not even guilty.”
Sullivan is still being held on probation violations, and remains in custody at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on those charges. Hammond said she plans to prepare an indictment to present to Monday’s grand jury panel, and the probation violations were also continued to that date.