Councilman's attorneys want grand jury indictments quashed

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- The attorneys for a Portsmouth city councilman want to quash or void  20 special grand jury indictments in his fraud and forgery case.

Councilman Mark Whitaker's motion, filed in circuit court, also asks for a judge to remove the appointed special prosecutor from any further involvement in the case.

Earlier this year, Whitaker was indicted on charges that included forgery, identity fraud and passing a forged check.

The motion to quash comes exactly one month before the councilman is scheduled to stand trial.

The strongly worded document alleges a judge's late recusal, bias from sheriff's office investigators and the special prosecutor relying on evidence from those investigators, are what ultimately ended up "setting up Whitaker for indictment."

The charges stem from an investigation into the church where Whitaker is an assistant pastor, its development company, and its now-defunct federal credit union.

Sheriff Bill Watson said the motion to quash was the "instigating law enforcement official in the case against Whitaker." It read, Watson "has been publicly critical of and openly hostile to Whitaker."

As evidence, Whitaker's attorneys, Jon Babineau and Don Scott, included text messages as exhibits. They show an argument supposedly between the sheriff and an unknown party.  In it, Watson purportedly calls Whitaker "the biggest racist that I've ever seen..."

Attorneys wrote that one of the special investigators, Captain Lee Cherry, "commented publicly that Whitaker was a liar and/or untrustworthy."

13News Now reached out to Captain Cherry Friday for a response. He said, "The information presented by the special prosecutor to the special grand jury was factual and true. Records about New Bethel Federal Credit Union were gathered from the National Credit Union Administration and other sources. U.S. Treasury was also part of the investigation. We are not surprised they are doing this."

The special prosecutor has not filed a response to the motion in court.

Ultimately, the defense is asking for a hearing to show evidence why they believe the indictments should be thrown out and the special prosecutor recused. That has not been scheduled yet.

Whitaker maintains his innocence in the case. He continues to serve as a councilman while the case proceeds.

Motion to quash grand jury indictments by 13News Now on Scribd

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