PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- A specially appointed judge ruled on many pretrial issues in the identity fraud and forgery case against Portsmouth Councilman Mark Whitaker.
Attorneys spent 6 and a half hours in court Monday, arguing motions ahead of the July trial.
A special grand jury indicted the councilman in April of 2017. Filings show the case involves Dr. Whitaker, a credit union associated with the church where he is the assistant pastor and its development company. According to court records, the twenty felony charges deal with loans given out by the credit union.
The public and reporters could only sit inside the courtroom for just over one hour of the 6 and a half hour hearing. Judge Harold W. Burgess Jr. said they needed to discuss the testimony from the special grand jury and in order to maintain the required secrecy, he cleared the courtroom.
13News Now was able to get details from attorneys who argued motions. They said the special prosecutor assigned to the case will stay. The judge denied a defense request to subpoena and recuse the prosecutor.
The defense also said the judge ruled they and Whitaker did not engage in any wrongdoing. That discussion came in response to a prosecution motion questioning dealings with witnesses.
The special prosecutor will be able to treat two victims in the case as "adverse witnesses." The Commonwealth alleges these people have changed their stories, and the testimonies they will give on the stand contradicts what they said in the special grand jury. The judge is not allowing the same treatment for two other witnesses, including Whitaker's sister, according to lawyers.
Early in the evening, the judge reopened the courtroom for arguments about whether or not a confidential informant's identity should be revealed. He ultimately ruled it cannot.
The judge has yet to rule on a motion about alleged prior “bad acts.” He did not give a timetable for when he would hand down that decision.
The trial, in this case, is scheduled to begin July 16th. Whitaker has maintained his innocence.
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