By Greg Dorazio
A Louisa County man who is charged with threatening a member of the Louisa County commonwealth’s attorney’s office will remain in custody until his trial, unless he can successfully appeal the decision.
On February 16, after hearing evidence regarding two felony counts against James R. Stallings, Judge Edward K. Carpenter denied the defendant’s request for pre-trial release.
Although the general district court judge allowed for a $15,000 bond for the felony count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, he expressed concerns about what he characterized as the “more serious circumstances” of the threat charge.
Citing the aggressive language of a letter Stallings allegedly delivered to the official, including its use of the words “murder” and “beating,” the court ruled that Stallings be held without the opportunity for bail.
Jeff Haislip, Fluvanna County’s commonwealth’s attorney who is serving as special prosecutor, argued that both the message’s content and its hand-delivery revealed an escalation in Stallings’s “not healthy…fixation” on the official.
Citing the First and Eighth Amendments, Horace Hunter, retained counsel for Stallings, argued that the letter had originally appeared as a post on the defendant’s website critical of local government and that the denial of bond would serve as a punishment to Stallings before his trial.
“I don’t think the First Amendment in any way covers direct threats,” Haislip told the judge. “I don’t know of any other way to take this other than as direct threats.”
Testimony offered during the hearing included description of the ongoing “experimental agricultural operation” at the Stallings residence, which served as the basis for the marijuana charges against Stallings and his wife, who has been released on bail.
Law enforcement witnesses testified that they found nine plants, which they valued at $27,000.
The defense argued that the immature plants had no actual value. State and local authorities contended that the $3,000 value per plant is based on the theoretical yield at full maturity.
During the defense cross-examination, the witnesses were unable to gauge the likelihood that the small plants would reach maturity, but they also testified that they found smaller seedlings and other equipment consistent with a growing operation in the home.
Stallings has appealed the bond decision to the circuit court, and a hearing is scheduled for February 27. The couple is expected back in Louisa General District Court on March 15.