Turn­ing the ta­bles: Rapp Cir­cuit Court judge will an­swer to as­sault charges

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

Chief Rap­pa­han­nock County Cir­cuit Court Judge Jef­frey W. Parker will ap­pear in Stafford County Dis­trict Court on Tues­day, Sept. 19, at 8:30 a.m. to face mis­de­meanor as­sault and bat­tery charges in con­nec­tion with his ar­rest Sept. 6 at a Wal­mart in that county.

Parker told an ar­rest­ing Stafford County sher­iff’s deputy that he had found some jew­elry in the park­ing lot of the Wal­mart lo­cated on Rt. 17 just north of Fred­er­icks­burg. Parker said he turned the jew­elry into the store’s ser­vice desk and asked the clerk for writ­ten doc­u­men­ta­tion of the mer­chan­dise

as proof of his re­turn so he could claim it if the owner was not found.

When the clerk re­fused to pro­vide a re­ceipt, Parker al­legedly reached across the counter and grabbed her hand. The Fauquier Times quoted the clerk as stat­ing later that Parker had grabbed her hand “hard enough to hurt.”

The judge was ar­rested by deputy J.J. Bryan, taken to the mag­is­trate, charged with as­sault and bat­tery, and re­leased on an un­se­cured bond.

Reached Tues­day, Parker’s War­ren­ton-based at­tor­ney, Ro­bic C. Gulick, said he could not com­ment for the record, but he did con­firm that the judge would be present for Tues­day’s ar­raign­ment.

Parker, 65, has served on the cir­cuit courts of Rap­pa­han­nock, Fauquier and Loudoun coun­ties since 2001. Dur­ing that time he has presided over sev­eral lo­cal high-pro­file cases. In 2002, Judge Parker ruled against Rap­pa­han­nock County and over­turned then-County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the Bardo Brew­ery’s “beer tast­ings” were in vi­o­la­tion of the county’s zon­ing or­di­nance.

Parker com­pared beer tast­ings to of­fer­ing cus­tomers of a farm stand a slice of a tomato.

He also presided over a 2004 case in which Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents Stephen and Mary Catherine Wor­ley chal­lenged the town’s Ar­chi­tec­tural Re­view Board over its His­tor­i­cal Dis­trict Or­di­nance. Parker ruled that the or­di­nance was in­valid.

And more re­cently, he presided over David Kon­ick vs. the Town of Wash­ing­ton in con­nec­tion with the “Town Square Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion” project. The suit asked the court to in­val­i­date sev­eral ac­tions taken by the town coun­cil in 2013 as part of the project’s part­ner­ship with the Inn at Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton and Trin­ity Epis­co­pal Church.

As for the judge’s ar­rest, Charles Crow­son, a Wal­mart cor­po­rate spokesper­son, had no com­ment when reached Tues­day. “We will not speak about an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said, adding that there is no com­pany-wide lost and found pol­icy.

“Ev­ery store sets its own pol­icy about lost and found,” he said.

A Wal­mart man­ager reached at the store where the in­ci­dent took place hung up the phone af­ter say­ing she could not com­ment.

Since Parker’s ar­rest, the Rap­pa­han­nock News has re­ceived both praise and com­plaints from both in-state and out of state res­i­dents about the judge. Lo­cal lawyers, upon hear­ing of Parker’s ar­rest, ex­pressed sur­prise and de­fended what ap­peared to be Parker’s ini­tial in­tent to at­tempt to re­turn the jew­elry to its right­ful owner.

Kon­ick, reached by this news­pa­per, ex­plained what is known as the “find­ers keep­ers” law.

“Es­sen­tially, if you find some­thing in a pub­lic place, such as the Wal­mart park­ing lot, you have the right to keep it, un­less the right­ful owner is found,” the lawyer said. “There is no re­quire­ment to turn it into lost and found. And nei­ther Parker nor Wal­mart is ob­li­gated to find the right­ful owner.”

But, Kon­ick pointed out, Parker was try­ing to do the right thing by turn­ing in the piece. “Pre­sum­ably, Judge Parker asked for a re­ceipt so that there was record that he had turned in the jew­elry, so that in case the owner was not found, he could claim it.”

This past Jan­uary, the Vir­ginia Gen­eral Assem­bly re-ap­pointed Parker to his third eight-year term on the bench. He is known to have ex­pe­ri­enced poor health of late, in­clud­ing prob­lems with his back and hip. He has made it known that he has con­sid­ered early re­tire­ment.

STAFFORD COUNTY SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE

Judge Jef­frey W. Parker was ar­rested last week af­ter a con­fronta­tion at a Wal­mart near Fred­er­icks­burg.

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