A look at the new Downtown theater, an exoneration, and mental health funding: News briefs

The planned facade of the new Violet Crown Cinemas, the indie theater with a bar and restaurant that will replace the Downtown Regal. Image: Stoneking/von Storch Architects The planned facade of the new Violet Crown Cinemas, the indie theater with a bar and restaurant that will replace the Downtown Regal. Image: Stoneking/von Storch Architects

Below, find our latest news briefs—several stories we’ve got an eye on. Pick up C-VILLE’s print edition tomorrow and check c-ville.com daily for regular updates.

First look at new Downtown theater

Charlottesville will get a glimpse this week of the initial plans for the new eat-in arthouse theater set to replace the Downtown Regal 6.

Bill Banowsky, owner of the nascent Violet Crown Cinemas chain, has seen success at his first Violet Crown location in Austin. The Charlottesville theater will have a similar setup: indie films served up with bar and appetizer fare that patrons can bring into the auditoriums.

Banowsky, who entered an agreement with property owner Dorothy Batten to operate the new theater, was scheduled to present plans to the city’s Board of Architectural Review Tuesday night, and offered C-VILLE a preview of the facade design he hopes the BAR will support.

“We intend to get our approval whenever we can,” Banowsky said, though he and local firm Stoneking/von Storch Architects aren’t seeking approval yet—just submitting some concepts. Banowsky said he’d like to see construction completed on the building ahead of the 2014 Virginia Film Festival.

UVA law clinics win victory in wrongful conviction case

UVA law students and professors have helped exonerate a Central Virginia man wrongfully convicted of rape, ending a years-long legal struggle to clear his name.

Edward Coker Jr. of Mineral was 15 in 2007 when he pleaded guilty to breaking into a 14-year-old girl’s house and raping her. A detective told him a guilty plea would be the only way to avoid being tried and jailed as an adult, according to reports.

The girl who initially accused him recanted shortly after Coker was convicted, and she and her family have argued in favor of his exoneration since, according to a UVAToday story. Coker was released on parole in 2009, and his legal team, which included students and professors in the UVA School of Law’s Innocence Project and Child Advocacy clinics, has been fighting to get the courts to vacate his conviction since.

Last week, Stafford County Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush did just that, eliminating his sex offender status and saying his original attorney’s representation “was not reasonably competent,” according to UVAToday.

Coker, now 22, told The Daily Progress his freedom was “a reality check.”

“I got so used to not going to certain places, and now I’m able to just live my life,” he said.

Report: State unnecessarily hospitalizing mentally ill

A new report released by the state’s inspector general confirms what mental health advocates in Virginia have long argued: that the Commonwealth is spending unnecessary millions to institutionalize mentally ill patients who should be released.

According to a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the report says the state spent more than $28 million in 2012 to keep 161 patients in hospitals for an average of 266 days even though they were clinically ready for less costly community-based care.

Last year, the Disability Law Center of Virginia published a report with similar findings, which director Colleen Miller told C-VILLE underscores the need to prioritize funding for outpatient services—not more beds.

Mental health care funding and oversight has come under scrutiny in Virginia since the November 19 attack on State Senator Creigh Deeds by his son, Gus, who then committed suicide. Gus had been sent home after an emergency custody order expired the day before.

Budget committees in Virginia’s House and Senate have proposed increased spending for mental health care funding, according to the Times-Dispatch. The Senate’s proposed plan goes the furthest, calling for nearly $60 million in additional funding, including money to support the discharge of up to 60 currently hospitalized patients.—C-VILLE writers