Some journalists absolutely hate covering court. There’s a lot of downtime, and legal jargon and sometimes you spend an hour waiting just to see the case you are covering delayed. I, on the other hand, love it! It’s real and raw and you never, ever know what’s going to happen. I’ve sat feet from convicted murderers and seen first hand a person wrongfully accused then vindicated. Circuit Court is always where you see the big crimes… the murders and shootings. But General District Court (often called traffic court) can sometimes be the most entertaining. Granted, listening to people try to talk their way out of tickets isn’t fun, but everyone once in a while there’s something you just can’t believe.
This morning I was sent to court for a preliminary hearing. These type of hearings are where the judge decides if there’s enough evidence to proceed. Prelim hearings are often the place defense attorneys learn about all the evidence against their clients.
My case this morning? Sondrah Nathaniel, a 60-year-old woman accused of attempted first degree murder. We learned today it began with road rage incident in the parking lot of her assisted living facility. There’s a lot of information that just couldn’t be said on tv, but I CAN post it here… so here goes.
According to testimony in court, Maintenance man Donald Rivers had an emergency with an overflowing toilet in the Forest Creek Apartment complex. He was in a hurry and driving to get his tools when he came upon Nathaniel in her car. She was parking and he says she was blocking the whole road. He pulled up on the curb to go around her. This led to a heated argument.
Rivers says Nathaniel got out of her car and stood on the corner in front of her house yelling. “M&*%&$ F^&%&% I’m a senior! Respect me!” He testified that Nathaniel went up to his truck window and started yelling and poking him in the nose. He says he poked her back. He says she took a swing and he caught her arm. Rivers testified he yelled, “I’m going to treat you like a man if you keep acting like a man.” Rivers says he got out of his car and his dog jumped out too. He testified he tried to the grab the dog and that’s when Nathaniel disappeared. He says he heard her yell, “M*%^*%F&*&)! I’m going to shoot you, I’m going to kill you!” He says he turned and she fired the gun. No one was hit and no bullet was ever found.
Nathaniel did not testify today, nor did she have to, but her attorney says Nathaniel acted in self-defense. Claire Cardwell says, “There’s two sides to this story and my client felt very intimidated at the time. She’s a senior citizen and there was an argument and she felt extremely concerned for her safety.”
A grand jury will hear the case in June to decide if the charges will be certified.
I couldn’t have made this story up if I tried. Again, who needs reality TV when there’s Richmond court?