Mayor investigated for unspecified ‘criminal matter’
FRONT ROYAL – Mayor Hollis Tharpe is under investigation for a “criminal matter,” according to Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams. No charges have been filed, and Abrams declined to reveal details of the investigation.
Tharpe said over the phone that he was unaware of any investigation and he has “no clue” what it may concern. He said police have not interviewed him or talked to him about the investigation and no one has threatened to file a complaint against him.
He said “I have absolutely no idea what they’re investigating” and that “the citizens can rest assured that there’s no criminal activity in my past or future.” He added that his attempts to find out details of the investigation were unsuccessful and he wishes any interested attorney “would just pick up the phone and call me.”
Tharpe added that he would be “more than happy” to assist in any investigation.
“An investigation made public puts the wrong idea in people’s minds. I don’t want to give people the wrong conclusion that I would be involved in criminal activity,” he said.
Abrams said over the phone that “it’s an investigation of a criminal matter” and declined to comment further. He added that he does not know how long the matter will be under investigation before a decision is made whether or not to file charges. If charges are filed, he said he would be able to provide “some basic facts” before the matter went to court.
Abrams took over the investigation from the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden, who recused himself from the matter. Tharpe said he called Madden upon learning of the investigation Thrusday and did not hear back.
A Warren County Circuit Court motion titled “Investigation concerning Hollis Tharpe” states that Madden is recused from the matter because “he is so situated with respect to conducting an investigation and determining whether to file charges against the above named individual [Tharpe] and to prosecute if filed.”
The motion states that pursuant to Virginia Code section 19.2-155, Abrams will take over for Madden.
The Virginia Code section 19.2-155 states that if the commonwealth attorney is connected by blood or marriage with the accused or “situated with respect to such accused” to “render it improper” for him to investigate the accused, the circuit court can appoint an attorney from another jurisdiction to the case.
Madden stated in an email that “we have no comment whether an investigation is or is not proceeding.”
According to online Warren County court records, Tharpe was involved in one local court proceeding in 1995 when he was found guilty of a misdemeanor count of assault and battery.