Monthly Archives: April 2010

Who Needs Reality TV When There’s Richmond Court

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Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

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?

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Crazy Arrest and other Richmond Business…

Rachel DePompa – bio | email  

Sorry for the gap between posts, but May sweeps is fast approaching and I’m working on several special stories for you guys. Stay tuned!

Arrested While Going to Court:

I’ll never, ever, ever understand why someone going to court would bring something illegal. You KNOW you are going before a judge AND that you have to pass through metal detectors and sheriff’s deputies. YOU KNOW THIS! I’ll never forgot when I worked for the ABC station in little Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was standing in line, waiting to go through security and into the courthouse. The deputies asked the man in front of me to empty his pockets before he went through the metal detector. The man takes a bag of pot out of his pocket and sets it on the deputy’s tray. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME????) The man was arrested on the spot. I was a one-man-band reporter at the time. Meaning, I had a camera with me and got the whole thing on tape for the evening news.

It’s happened here in Richmond. Here’s an excerpt from a press release we got from the Richmond Sheriff’s Office…. 

On Friday, April 16, 2010, at 11:50 a.m., LaRhonda A. Richardson, age 21, was scheduled to appear in Richmond General District Court Traffic Division for an unrelated traffic offense. After receiving initial clearance to enter the courthouse, she underwent a routine pat down for weapons.  It was then discovered that Ms. Richardson had drugs hidden in her right front pants pocket.

She was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. Please remember if you are going to court to see a judge…. Don’t do anything illegal on your way through the front door.

New City Attorney:

Richmond’s new city Attorney will be sworn in on Monday May 3rd. The City Council has appointed Allen L. Jackson to the job. Jackson comes to Richmond from Newport News. Jackson had worked in the Newport News city attorney’s office since 1988. The swearing-in will happen at City Hall in the city clerk’s office at 10:00 am.

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End of the Ukrop’s Era

Rachel DePompa – bio | email  

#Ukropalyse:

Four former Ukrop’s stores are gone. I visited the Martin’s today in Short Pump and it was BUSY. This is what I observed today: The parking lot was packed and the aisles were full of shoppers. I talked to a ton of people and did not hear one negative comment. This is a sampling of some of the actual comments…  “I’m really impressed.” “It’s so clean.” “The aisles are jam-packed with food.” “I’m  not buying any groceries I just came to see it.” “It’s so bright in here and colorful.”  

Amusingly, the beer and wine sections were filled with curious shoppers. Many people told me they just wanted to stop by and see the selection. A business professor at VCU says you can expect this burst in business in the beginning as people give the new store a try, but he says it will be more interesting to see if it holds up.  He also says to keep a close eye next year on which local chain rules the market. Last year, Food Lion held the title.

City’s Real Estate Tax:

Council votes on the Real Estate Tax rate tonight. All my sources tells the rate will not change. It currently sits at $1.20 per 100 dollars of accessed value. Interestingly, if the council keeps the rate the same, many people in the city will see decreased bills this June. That’s because real estate assessments in the city last february dropped. So, if the rate holds steady and your assessment was lower, you will pay less this year.

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The Devil is in the Details…

Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

Sure, there are no new taxes in the Mayor’s proposed budget. And there are no major cuts to services, but that doesn’t mean the city’s budget situation won’t hit taxpayers in the wallet. Jones is calling for rate increases for natural gas, water and waste water.

If his proposal is passed by city council the water rate would rise 4%, and the gas and waste water fees would rise by about 2%.  So what does that mean in dollars and cents????

Average Monthly gas bills would go from $91.96 to $92.79 …. difference-83 cents

Average Monthly water bills would go from $29.17 to $29.32….. difference 15 cents

Average Monthly waster water bills would go from $44.18 to $44.40…. difference 22 cents

 The city says the increases are necessary because of  increased state and federal regulations as well as capital needs of the utilities systems. (Translation: that means because of the economy.)

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