FRONT ROYAL - Mark Williams, an attorney for Donald Poe - one of five individuals charged by the special grand jury investigating the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority - said after a Friday preliminary hearing that “we want to go to trial as quickly as possible.”
“Donnie has been under a cloud here for months, we’re ready to clear his name, we’re ready to go to trial anytime,” Williams said.
Poe has been indicted on two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, one count of money laundering and one count of perjury.
During the Friday hearing, Williams requested detailed information regarding the charges Poe faces.
All of the special grand jury’s proceedings are secretive and the only public information available are the charges and the alleged dates on which they occurred.
Williams said all they know is that Poe’s charges relate to a wire transfer and a “membership agreement.” All that is known about the perjury charge is that it relates to Poe's testimony before the special grand jury.
Williams said his client is entitled to know what has been said about him during special grand jury testimony, a sentiment agreed upon by Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. Alberston and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Layton.
Williams said after the hearing that even though he and Poe are unaware of the charges' exact nature, “we are very confident.”
Albertson said he would later decide whether Poe should have access to all of the grand jury testimony and documents or just what relates to him. Layton said that Poe does not need all of the special grand jury’s evidence, as he is not accused of having been involved in all of the alleged EDA-related wrongdoings.
Williams agreed and said: “We’ve got plenty to do in this case, we certainly don’t need everything.”
While the indictments against Poe are vague, a report by Cherry Bekaert - the firm that investigated the EDA’s finances - accuses him of potentially being involved in financial wrongdoings related to the installation of solar panels and the EDA's purchase of the Stokes Mart, which later became B&G Goods.
Lawyers for Earth Right Energy, the company co-owned by Poe that was allegedly involved in illicit solar panel deals - have stated in court filings that Cherry Bekaert's report is a “dastardly trick” that is being treated “as a third party’s independent conclusion” although “the EDA hand-selected the information it provided.” That report was the basis of the EDA's $17.6 million embezzlement and misappropriation lawsuit filed in March against nine parties.
A jury trial regarding the perjury charge is set for Dec. 6 while a jury trial for the financial charges will be Jan. 22, 23 and 24.
Williams said he does not know if the trials will be held in Warren County, as the case has been highly publicized and “everybody knows Donnie.”
Just before Poe’s hearing, former B&G Goods store owner William Lambert - who has been indicted on two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and one count of money laundering - was granted a $10,000 unsecured bond.
Others who have been charged by the special grand jury - Poe, former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, her husband Samuel North and former EDA administrative assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry - were all previously granted bond.
Phillip Griffin, Lambert’s lawyer, said his client is “a minor player in the overall scheme” while Layton noted his charges relate to transactions in the “lower six figures.”
According to the Cherry Bekaert report, B&G Goods - a company in which McDonald and Henry invested - was given two EDA loans totaling $39,900. Instead of paying off the loans, the report states Lambert turned over inventory, which McDonald and Henry allegedly sold and kept the proceeds.
The report adds that a $35,235 check written in December 2016 by DaBoyz LLC - owned by McDonald and former Sheriff Daniel McEathron - was written with the memo line stating “pay off B&G.”
Asked about B&G Goods after the hearing, Poe said: “Our documentation shows that our company done something good for - not B&G Goods - it was the Stokes Mart to me."
"I want to leave it at that. We done something good,” Poe said.
Lambert's bond conditions are that he resides in either Virginia or West Virginia, have no contact with other defendants charged by the special grand jury and remain free of alcohol and drugs.
He will appear in court again Oct. 15. Also on that date, Poe, McDonald and North will appear for preliminary matters.
Before Poe’s and Lambert’s criminal hearings, lawyers representing defendants in EDA’s civil lawsuit were all present via telephone to set dates for pre-trial hearings on Oct. 17 and Dec. 12.
Edward MacMahon, who represented the now-deceased McEathron, said during the conference call that he would soon file a motion to drop his client from the EDA’s lawsuit. Albertson said he would approve that request when the paperwork arrives.
Cullen Seltzer, who represents the EDA in the civil case, noted that the EDA will amend its complaint to add facts and potential new defendants around the end of September.