FRONT ROYAL – During a Tuesday motions hearing in criminal cases related to alleged financial improprieties within the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, Interim Clerk of Circuit Court Janice Shanks said this “is probably the largest case we’ve ever seen.”
Shanks said difficulties in the case include turning evidence over to defendants as there are an estimated 700,000 documents needed to be scanned. She added that someone in the state supreme court told her this is the “largest amount of documentation files that he has ever seen.”
Appearing in court Tuesday were former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, her husband Samuel North, former B&G Goods store owner William Lambert, and businessman Donald Poe.
All four have been feloniously indicted by a special grand jury investigating potential embezzlments within the EDA. There was an alleged $21.3 million worth of embezzlements and misappropriations within the authority during McDonald’s tenure, according to a civil case filed by the EDA.
Lawyers for both North and Lambert said they may ask for detailed outlines of the charges against their clients.
Phillip Griffin II, Lambert’s lawyer, said he is hoping to avoid reviewing hundreds and thousands of pages to learn of allegations that took place in two months during 2014. Frank Reynolds, North’s lawyer, noted that his client's charges are alleged to have taken place in August 2015.
Judge Bruce Albertson noted that when all of the evidence is available, it may be “difficult and copious” to review, but the nature of the charges may become apparent in doing so.
William Ashwell, Poe’s lawyer, requested detailed information on what statement before the special grand jury led to a perjury charge. Albertson gave the prosecution two weeks to provide those details.
Albertson noted that John Bell, who is running unopposed in the Nov. 5 commonwealth’s attorney election, will have to recuse himself from the EDA criminal cases. Albertson said that another commonwealth’s attorney office may have to take over the case.
Interim Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton said that no other commonwealth’s attorney office has agreed to take over the proceedings. He also noted the ties between the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office and the Board of Supervisors, which consists of an entire board indicted on misdemeanor charges related to the case. This, he said, presents an issue beyond the appearance of impropriety.
Peter Greenspun, McDonald's lawyer, noted that this may put a “hard stop” to any future trial dates set Tuesday and McDonald would rather have “a more efficient and organized process” in which “meaningful” hearings are scheduled.
Layton said the investigation into “all aspects” of the case is “ongoing” and he cannot say with certainty that individuals already indicted will not face additional charges.
All four are scheduled to reappear in circuit court at 4 p.m. Nov. 21.