In brief: 5th District frenzy, license lawsuit lives, copycat charged and more

Flanna and Tom Garrett were accused of making congressional staffers handle personal chores.
Staff photo Flanna and Tom Garrett were accused of making congressional staffers handle personal chores. Staff photo

Garrett’s abrupt change of heart

Congressman Tom Garrett has many critics in the Charlottesville area who call him “One-term Tom,” but even they didn’t foresee that happening by Garrett withdrawing from the 5th District race.

Word that Garrett may not seek re-election first was reported by Politico May 23 after he and his chief of staff parted ways. The next day, Garrett held a Facebook Live news conference and insisted he was still in the race, although UVA Center for Politics pundit Larry Sabato described the event as “strange,” the Daily Progress reports.

On May 24, four former staffers told Politico that Garrett and his wife, Flanna, forced them to run personal errands, including picking up groceries and dog poop.

By May 28, a teary Garrett appeared in Richmond at Capitol Square, where he’d served a term in the General Assembly, and said, “Any person—Republican, Democrat or independent—who has known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I’m an alcoholic,” according to the Washington Post.

The withdrawal could leave the Republican Party of Virginia with a flood of candidates vying to face Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn. Distillery owner Denver Riggleman, who ran for governor last year, says he’s seeking the nomination, as are Delegate Michael Webert, a Fauquier resident, Martha Boneta, a Fauquier farmer, and Jim McKelvey, a Bedford developer who sought the 5th District seat twice before. Delegate Rob Bell is one of the names floated, but he says he’s not going to run.

“That’s why it’s a no-drugs, no-thugs scene here.”—Adharsh McCabe, the former Boylan Heights general manager, in a May 25 Daily Progress article on his policy to bar all but UVA students after 11 pm. Boylan Heights then released a statement that McCabe’s policy was never approved, and fired him.

Cops not liable

A federal judge threw out local resident Robert Sanchez Turner’s lawsuit against the city, the state and city and state police officers, for failing to uphold the 14th Amendment on August 12 by “interven[ing] and protect[ing] a citizen from criminal conduct by third parties.” Judge Norman Moon said there is no clearly established constitutional right to support any of the Unite the Right counterprotester’s claims.

Lawsuit stays alive

The Legal Aid Justice Center filed a federal class-action lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of Charlottesville resident Damian Stinnie, 24, who was unable to pay about $1,000 in traffic fines, and lost his driver’s license. It’s the legal group’s position that Virginia’s suspension of licenses for nonpayment of court fees is an “unconstitutional scheme.”  A district court dismissed the suit last year, but on May 23, an appeals court overruled the dismissal.

Federal charges

Michael Anthony Townes, the Atlanta man who posted threatening messages online against Charlottesville schools and caused all city schools to go into lockdown for two days last October, has been arrested and is facing federal charges. He claimed he would “pull off a copycat” of the mass shooting in Las Vegas at an “all-white charter school” in Charlottesville.

Integration leader

Civic activist Helen “Sandy” Snook, who was one of the first to integrate a children’s camp and Girl Scout troop in Central Virginia in the 1960s and who was active in the League of Women Voters and many civic organizations, died May 22 at age 90.






Merger alert

WVPT PBS and WHTJ PBS have merged, and according to “Charlottesville Inside-Out” co-producer and host Terri Allard, this means new PBS programming and PBS Kids summer learning opportunities.


Andrew Dodson, 34, an alt-righter from South Carolina who attended the August 12 Unite the Right rally, killed himself in March. As the news circulated on the web last week, white supremacist leader Richard Spencer attributed Dodson’s suicide to being doxxed, and called doxxing an “act of war,” according to anti-fascist blog It’s Going Down.

The SMART way to handle a gun

Need a cable gun lock? Drop by the Albemarle County Police Department during normal business hours to snag a free one. To use it, put the firearm’s safety on, pass the cable through the barrel, into the chamber and through the magazine. Then lock it with the padlock.

On the heels of two 2-year-old children who were accidentally shot to death in Virginia on the same day last week—one by his 4-year-old brother in Louisa and the other in Roanoke, when a toddler found a loaded gun in his parents’ apartment—one area group is working to make the country safer for children.

“I am always perplexed by the accidental part,” says Priya Mahadevan, the head of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Responsible gun owners do not leave a loaded weapon within reach of their babies. Now a 4-year-old toddler has been saddled with the fate of having killed his sibling.”

On May 23, the group of determined moms and allies held a Wear Orange bingo fundraiser at Random Row Brewery, where dozens of people showed up dressed in the favorite color of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013. The Wear Orange campaign has been embraced by activist groups across the nation.

Over the past 20 years, tens of thousands of people have suffered gun-related deaths, according to Mahadevan.

Says the mother who was born in India, “I have three beautiful children, but they have grown up in this awful, fearful, trigger-happy nation and I feel so bad that I cannot give them the simplicity of the life I had in a country where I had never seen a gun. They were very much present there as well, but it was never a threat to safety of civilians.”

Mahadevan’s group offers a list of tips to help gun owners be “SMART” when it comes to their firearms. “We have so many other things to worry about already, this should not be one of them,” she says.

Secure guns in homes and vehicles

Model responsible behavior

Ask about unsecured guns in other homes

Recognize the risks of teen suicide

Tell your peers to be SMART


Correction June 4: The date of Tom Garrett’s announcement that he would not seek reelection‚May 28—was wrong in the original version.

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