A packed Culpeper County Circuit Courtroom watched last Thursday as the Corey Clanagan prosecution bogged down even more as defense attorneyâ??s probed a mysterious link between the Culpeper Commonwealth Attorneyâ??s office and a Spotsylvania Grand Jury — the proceedings of which are secret by state law.
Circuit Court Judge Susan Whitlock told the assembled five attorneys and their clients, under the gaze of at least 11 deputies standing guard for security, that she had reviewed the transcripts of the grand jury session in question. But, she told the courtroom, Spotsylvania Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis had kept the testimony under seal and therefore secret so that she could not release the contents.
This became important when Gil Berger and Teresa Carter, who represent two of the defendants, told the judge they would like to see the transcripts before Whitlock proceeded further.
Berger represents Tonie M. Jones and Carter represents Donell D. Easter Jr.
Jones and Easter were transported to Spotsylvania County to testify before a Grand Jury March 24. This, over the objections of Berger and Carter at the time, according to motions filed by both attorneys. Neither attorney was present during the alleged questioning. Berger is asking as a consequence of the forced testimony, that the charges against his client be dropped or that Commonwealth Attorney Megan Revis Frederick and her office be removed from the case. Carter is asking that the charges be dropped but did not go so far as to ask for Frederickâ??s removal from any further proceedings.
Whitlock had abruptly ended a June 3 hearing on Bergerâ??s motion to remove Frederick and dismiss the charges against his client, telling the attorney then that she did not want to proceed until she had a chance to review the March 24 Grand Jury transcripts from Spotsylvania County.
Berger and the others were waiting to hear her ruling on their motions on June 18, and to learn from the judge her decision on the request by the Commonwealth to try all of the defendants on all of the charges during one trial — called a Motion for Joinder. The Motion for Joinder, filed by Angela Catlett for the Commonwealth, drew the opposition of all attorneys for the defendants. The most prevalent argument from each was that to allow a jury to hear evidence admissible against one defendant but not another would be confusing to a jury and therefore prejudicial to each of their clients.
Whitlock told the court she was ready to rule on the Joinder Motion but cryptically added she would not do so — â??to prevent conflicts for the commonwealthâ? — until after Berger and Carter have a chance to request the grand jury transcripts.
In another development more than seven months after Clanaganâ??s death, a Culpeper Grand Jury issued another murder by mob charge against a sixth defendant: 23-year-old Tyrece Branchcomb of Fredericksburg. As a consequence during the June 18th hearing another Fredericksburg attorney, who wished to remain anonymous, watched as he evaluated whether or not he would take the case defending Branchcomb.
Stabbed 24 times, 19-year-old Corey Clanagan died at a house party on Cherry Hill Road the night of November 1, 2014. More than 100 people are estimated to have been at the house party when the stabbing took place inside the residence. Clanagan stumbled outside before falling to the ground.
Connor Settle suffered two gunshot wounds to the leg at the same party but survived.
Daniel Akordor, 23, Donell Easter, Jr. 21, Tonie Jones, 18, Jonathan Milton, Jr., 21 and Ricardo Powell, 25 all stand charged with murder by mob, now joined by Branchcomb who stands charged with the same.
Whitlock is scheduled to rule on all motions July 7 at 3 p.m. In the meantime Berger and Carter are planning to file motions in the Spotsylvania County Circuit Court requesting copies of the March 24 transcripts from the Spotsylvania Grand Jury.
All of the defendants remain in jail awaiting trial.
Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.