PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- City Councilman Mark Whitaker turned himself into police Thursday afternoon after a special grand jury indicted him on 20 charges.
Those charges are:
- Identity Fraud (2 counts)
- Forgery (11 counts)
- Uttering (passing) of a Forged Check (7 counts)
Within hours after he turned himself in, Whitaker received an unsecured bond and was released. An arraingment has been scheduled for April 24.
Whitaker can continue serving as a councilman while the case proceeds.
The special grand jury began investigating the activities and the finances of a company, church, and defunct federal credit union to which Whitaker has ties on Tuesday.
The impaneling of the special grand jury and the indictment follow a 13News Now investigation that began in November 2015.
Paperwork related to the case said the special grand jury would investigate the activities of three entities -- New Bethel Baptist Church, where Councilman Mark Whitaker is the assistant pastor, New Bethel Development LLC, where Whitaker is listed as manager, and the now-defunct New Bethel Federal Credit Union.
A special grand jury is different than the grand juries that meet in each Virginia locality on a regular basis. According to Virginia code, this type of grand jury actually has subpoena power. It can order witnesses to testify before it and bring documents to consider as evidence. Special grand juries consist of seven to 11 people.
The people who sit on this special grand jury are peers of Whitaker and anyone else they investigate.
The law says a majority of jurors, but not less than five, must agree in order to return a “true bill of indictment.”
An indictment doesn't mean anyone is guilty, just that there's enough evidence to make a reasonable person believe a crime has been or may have been committed.
We reached out to Councilman Whitaker and his attorney for a comment ahead of the special grand jury, but neither responded to our request.
NOTE: About a year after 13News Now aired its original investigation, Councilman Whitaker sued our station, alleging the story defamed the public official. 13News Now is defending its work vigorously in court, and we stand by our story.
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