PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- Attorneys for a Portsmouth city councilman went before a judge on Monday, arguing his case should be quashed before going to trial.
Earlier this year, Councilman Mark Whitaker was indicted for ID fraud, forgery, and using forged checks. He turned himself in this past April after a grand jury indicted him on 20 charges.
This all started with an investigation by Sheriff Bill Watson. He looked into Whitaker's church, development company, and now-defunct credit union.
Whitaker’s attorneys asked a judge to toss the entire indictment, arguing the special jury process was tainted.
#Update: Attorneys for Portsmouth Councilman Mark Whitaker filed motions to dismiss the case. Judge denied two of them. Then judge kicked out the public to hear two more motions related to grand jury. #13NewsNow— Jaclyn Lee (@13JaclynLee) November 27, 2017
Whitaker's attorneys said the judge who presided over the grand jury did not recuse himself in a timely manner. The judge recused himself after hearing evidence and the grand jury returned the indictment, saying that Whitaker is well-known to all judges of the court, and it would be improper to continue onward.
The Commonwealth's Attorney countered Whitaker's defense never objected to the judge being involved at the very beginning, and that there was no evidence of prejudice or bias against Whitaker. The judge in Monday's hearing agreed, and dismissed the defense's motion.
Whitaker's attorney also argued for a motion to dismiss over lack of evidence, and that alleged victims were ready to testify on Whitaker's behalf, saying they gave Whitaker permission to use their signature and that the grand jury had been misled. The judge again dismissed the motion, saying a jury should be allowed to hear testimony from the alleged victims and make that determination for themselves.
Finally, Whitaker's defense filed two more motions concerning the grand jury. The attorney argued that since it was under protective order, the motions should not be heard in a public courtroom. They judge agreed, and the media was kicked out of the courtroom, over reporters' objections.
After court, Whitaker's attorneys said "no comment" but confirmed Whitaker's trial date is still set for March.
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