Legislator pleads guilty in hit and run

Delegate Matt Fariss was found not guilty of his breaching the peace charge.
Publicity photo Delegate Matt Fariss was found not guilty of his breaching the peace charge. Publicity photo

Albemarle’s favorite delegate with a rap sheet, Rustburg resident Matt Fariss, R-59th, pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run charge March 25 in Campbell County, and claims the incident that sent his Dodge Ram pickup airborne happened when he dropped a bottle of Mountain Dew and attempted to retrieve it. At the same hearing, Fariss was found not guilty of breaching the peace, a misdemeanor charge stemming from a separate incident.

Fariss veered off Red House Road July 29 and was not charged until December 10. His 2014 Dodge Ram plowed into several landscaped shrubs, a mailbox, a highway sign and approximately 60 feet of fence, according to the Virginia State Police.

The News & Advance in Lynchburg reports Fariss struck a tree, went in and out of a ditch, and then went airborne. He left the scene and said he intended to fix the fence himself, but his tires were leaking. When he left a note the next day, the fence already was fixed. He was ordered to pay a $250 fine, and said he’d already paid for the fence damage.

Gladys resident Ralph Ramsey, who also lives on Red House Road, filed the breach of peace complaint against Fariss January 5 after a dispute about Fariss’ sons blocking Ramsey’s driveway, which is an easement through land upon which property owner Sam Dawson allows people to hunt. Fariss filed his own complaint January 8.

Both men said the other was being confrontational, and the judge said he could find neither guilty, according to the News & Advance.

Fariss, who represents southern Albemarle County, was first elected to office in 2011, amid media reports of three hunting charges, a 1997 DUI and a 2002 emergency protective order filed by a woman who said Fariss crashed through her back door when she told him to leave.

He won 53 percent of the vote, and ran unopposed in 2013 and 2015.

Diana Mead is one of Fariss’ constituents in North Garden, and she finds it “a little embarrassing that my Virginia state delegate has such a long rap sheet.”

Her more immediate concern is that Fariss has been invited to the annual League of Women Voters’ Legislative Luncheon since he was first elected, and has been a no-show every year. This year’s luncheon is April 7.

“This is the perfect opportunity for him to meet some of his constituents, who eagerly await the chance to make his acquaintance,” writes Mead in an e-mail. “As far as I know, he has still never ventured north of Lovingston, so he is missing out on getting to know an important part of his district.”

She offers to drive to Rustburg and pick him up if that would help get him to the Boar’s Head Inn event. “It’s time to represent!” she says.

Fariss did not return a phone call from C-VILLE. In a call to the Republican Party of Virginia, when asked about the hit-and-running delegate, Executive Director John Findlay said, “Oh gosh.” He then referred a reporter to spokesperson David Donofrio, who did not return a call. Nor did Fariss’ attorney, Mark Peake, who said in court Fariss accepted “full responsibility” for the fence-smashing incident.

 

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