FRONT ROYAL – After a misdemeanor prostitution charge against former Mayor Hollis Tharpe was dismissed Monday, he announced his candidacy in a special election to fill his vacated seat.
“It’s appropriate to announce that I will be on the ballot come Nov. 5,” Tharpe said after the hearing.
Tharpe was indicted in April on one misdemeanor count of prostitution solicitation stemming from a 2018 visit to a Biggs Drive massage parlor.
Despite saying that the charges were baseless, Tharpe resigned as mayor because he said he did not want any negative attention to reflect poorly on the town. Upon the resignation, he had served one two-year term as mayor and was in the midst of a second term.
Cynthia Bailey, who owned the massage parlor, stands charged on counts of prostitution, receiving earnings from prostitution, residing in a bawdy place and child cruelty. She is due in General District Court at 2 p.m. Aug. 13.
She appeared briefly on the stand Monday and pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked whether Tharpe solicited prostitution from her or whether he ever touched her in an unwanted manner.
After she pleaded the Fifth Amendment, special prosecutor Heather Hovermale asked that the charge against Tharpe be dismissed because Bailey was the only witness in the case and “the commonwealth cannot go forth.”
Hovermale added that when the charges were brought against Tharpe, the commonwealth was under the impression that Bailey would cooperate in the prosecution. Judge William W. Sharp proceeded to dismiss the charge with prejudice.
Beau Bassler, Tharpe’s attorney, said after the hearing that Hovermale lived up to her reputation as a “fair and just” prosecutor because she realized that the case could not be won.
After announcing his intention to run for his vacated seat after the meeting, Tharpe said, with tears in his eyes, that he would talk about the situation in more depth later but that “I’m a little emotional.”
Tharpe and his wife then conferred with his lawyers behind closed doors. Upon their exit, Bassler said he would speak on his client’s behalf.
Bassler said that there has been an incredible outpouring of support for Tharpe from the community, his friends and family.
“He’s just very thankful that the right outcome happened,” Bassler said.
Bassler said that Tharpe does not regret stepping down from his mayoral role because “it’s not just about him” and it was best for the town even if he was not guilty.
“Pretty much what he says comes out of my mouth,” Tharpe said before getting on the elevator to exit the courthouse.
“Stand by for November the fifth,” he added.
Whoever wins the special mayoral election in November will serve out the remainder of Tharpe’s term, which expires at the end of 2020.