Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grubbs no show in court

Believed to be in hospital

Benda Grubbs, former Goochland County treasurer who resigned in February after having been arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $135,000 from county accounts, failed to appear in Goochland Circuit Court on July 26. She was scheduled to face multiple embezzlement charges and one charge of money laundering.

Grubbs was arrested in February when a representative of Wachovia Bank in Charlottesville notified local authorities of Grubbs making irregular withdrawals. When questioned by Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew, Grubbs is alleged to have confessed to taking county funds for her own use and was allegedly found to have wire transfer receipts secreted in her socks.
It is believed that she was transported to an area hospital on Saturday, July 23 after having been found unresponsive when a county rescue squad responded to a call at her address.

Her attorney, James Maloney, told Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner that he believed his client was a patient at Henrico Doctors Hospital. That information, he said, came from the hospital, not his client or her representatives.

Agnew later confirmed that a county rescue squad responded to a call at Grubbs’ address last Saturday and transported a female patient to an area hospital. Privacy laws, he said, preclude divulgence of more information. He did not know if Grubbs’ passport, if any, was confiscated after her initial appearance in court. Grubbs is alleged to have sent county money to locations in the Middle East.

In court Sanner and Jeff Haislip Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, puzzled over what action to take next. Haislip expressed concern about issuing a show cause order because it would add more stress to the situation but was very concerned about Grubbs’ failure to appear in court.

As Maloney had not spoken with his client and was unable to confirm the nature of her condition, but speculated that her medical problems could be both mental and physical. He said he did not know if her condition could warrant moving her to another facility.

Although there seemed to be a strong possibility that Grubbs attempted suicide, all remarks in court tiptoed around the mention of that term.
Sanner said that if the situation is a mental health issue and Grubbs is a danger to herself, she is in a place where she can receive appropriate care and was reluctant to issue essentially an arrest order because it would only exacerbate and already stressful situation.

Sanner also said that, because the nature of her offenses was non- violent, he would instead issue a show cause order to review the details of her condition. That included a return date of August 9 at 2 p.m. He will prepare and hold a failure to appear notice until more details of the situation are known. She could be arrested if she fails to appear or provide good reason for her absence then.

So, this mess will continue to fester in the broiling summer sun. On the bright side, failure to resolve this situation by Labor Day will add even more interest to this fall’s local elections. Incumbents, especially District 1 supervisor Andrew Pryor, who has been in office for almost 40 years, will have to explain why they went to great lengths to keep Grubb’s incompetence under wraps for years.

Grubbs’ current situation gives greater credence to widespread speculation that she would try to make some sort of deal or take other actions to avoid jail time. Now, it seems like a plea of diminished capacity could be on the way. The failure of Grubbs or any family members to contact Maloney, especially knowing that she was scheduled to appear in court is very puzzling. Is this yet another sign of arrogance or simple ignornance of the importance of this court appearance.

Maybe the county slogan should be “Come to Goochland rip off the public and get away with it.”

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