Veteran attorney Hunter B. Chapman recently filed a civil petition, in the Culpeper County Circuit Court, naming Commonwealth Attorney Megan Frederick as the defendant in an effort to get Frederick to seek criminal charges against a former employee of Virginia Broadband. While seeking a criminal process, the petition itself is civil and is filed in civil court.
Virginia Broad Band (VABB) is a Culpeper based company that provides high speed wireless internet services â??from the Blue Ridge to the Bay,â? according to the company website. The petition states Chapman is a founder of, and stockholder in, the company.
The civil document filed by Chapman, outlines an alleged embezzlement in the amount of $211,458.43 and asks that the Culpeper Circuit Court judge issue a writ of mandamus â??demanding and compelling (Frederick) to proceedâ?¦and present the same (evidence) to the April 20, 2015 Grand Jury…â?
According to Chapman, the judge has seen the petition and given Frederick time to answer its demands. Nothing regarding the allegations was presented at the April Grand Jury, according to Chapman.
Chapman, who has practiced law for 50 years, said he has never had to file a writ of mandamus before, nor has he seen it done in his long legal career. After 15 months of discussing the issue with Frederick, and getting no response, Chapman said he felt he had to press the issue by seeking the writ.
His petition states that on April 8 he left copies of the documentary evidence with a worker in the Commonwealth Attorneyâ??s office â??along with contact information which included telephone numbers and an email addressâ? for Chapman.
Frederick responded by email to Chapman but did not respond by telephone to the request to have witnesses appear before the grand jury in April, the petition states.
The 35-page civil petition, including attachments, contains three exhibits detailing alleged payments to a former CEO of Virginia Broadband, from July 2011 to September 2012 as well as a â??retirement agreementâ? setting forth payments and terms for the former CEO’s exit from the company.
The attached agreement is dated October 8, 2010. Under the terms of the agreement the former CEO would be paid for consulting services until June 30, 2011. The agreement makes no provisions for payments after that date, according to the documents filed with the petition, and the petition alleges that the former CEO paid himself the money between July 2011 and September 2012.
The petition states that Chapman and other stockholders â??successfully removed (the former CEO) from all company positions and VABB offices via a hostile takeover due to certain suspicious business activities by (the former CEO)â?.
The Culpeper Times sent an email to Frederick regarding this story which included these questions:
â??1.Why have you not presented the evidence to the Grand Jury?â?
â??2. Has the case been adequately investigated? If not, why not? If so, why have you not proceeded with criminal charges? Do you feel this is a civil matter?â?
Frederick did not respond.
What is a Writ of Mandamus?
It is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion. The petition for the writ and the writ itself are not criminal, but are civil proceedings, held and issued in a civil court.
It is recognized as being an extraordinary court order because it bypasses normal procedure and is often issued before a full judicial process has taken place. In this case the requested writ is to order Frederick to submit evidence to a Grand Jury to determine whether a criminal violation has occurred. Frederick has time to answer the petition to say why the writ is not appropriate. One argument she may make is that the power to indict, or not to indict, is a broad, unquestioned, and singular power held by prosecutors. She may also argue that Chapman has the right, at any time, to seek access to the Grand Jury, on his own, during term day. It is not unusual for private citizens to appear before the grand jury with their own complaint.
The writ, if issued, would be from the Circuit Court Judge to Frederick.
Gary L. Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at email@example.com.