Charges Against Donovan, Moore Dismissed, But Questions Loom Large
Written by: Bonnie Chapman
STAUNTON, VA - Augusta County, Virginia has seen the dismissal of all protest-related charges against Micheal Donovan and Richard Moore. Donovan is an owner of Verona-based Nexus Services, and Moore his partner. Indicted by a special grand jury on November 14, 2022, the pair's case highlights some peculiarities within the Virginia legal system, drawing criticism for its lack of transparency and perceived affront to the principle of a fair trial.
The charges originated from allegations that either Donovan or Moore provided or used sound amplification equipment at Augusta County protests. While the grand jury presentment did not specify these allegations, the manner in which the case was brought before the court has raised eyebrows.
Under Virginia code § 48-1, five citizens can empanel a special grand jury to investigate and indict another citizen. Typically, defendants in such cases receive notice and the opportunity to engage in motion practice. However, Augusta County diverges from this standard. It files these cases as criminal, thereby denying defendants opportunities for motion to dismiss, to identify their petitioners, and to face their accusers.
"I will identify and sue each person who signed that petition or supported its drafting and filing, as I believe it is an assault on democracy to charge someone to stop them from criticizing you," said Donovan. He added, "While America is still 'free', and while we still can, people need to stand up and fight back against government corruption." Donovan acknowledged that his company isn't necessarily popular locally, but he says that unpopular voices are the ones that often need to be protected. "Our government can shut anyone up, because it can charge you, jail you, or even kill you without consequence. I want to thank our attorneys, Amina Matheny-Willard from Norfolk and Richard's attorney, Terry Kilgore. Stifled from receiving any discovery whatsoever, Amina prepared for a jury trial anyway, and gave me the comfort to be able to continue to fight against corruption, in spite of the stress and risks."
Donovan's co-defendant, Richard Moore, argued that he never even attended a protest or used a megaphone at one. "No one could ever tell me what it was I was supposed to have done wrong. The only time I was there was when the Sheriff arrested my son for a noise ordinance violation, and I certainly didn't protest. This was a purely political prosecution," Moore contended. The demonstrations leading to the charges ran from May 2021 to the present, with near-daily protests against the Augusta County Sheriff's office for several months following two police involved shootings in two weeks. Notably, every protestor that was arrested by Augusta County deputies and prosecutors for noise ordinance violations was found Not Guilty by a judge in the General District Court, or had their charges dismissed with prejudice. Donovan raised concerns about political prosecutions, highlighting the dangers of a "police state" and the necessity for citizens to resist government overreach. With the county now losing on every single protest-related arrest made, questions linger: will Augusta County authorities respect the constitution, or continue to exploit their governmental power to stifle free speech? Will the identity of the mystery petitioners be revealed? Donovan claims he will take this case to the highest Court necessary to receive a copy of the petition that prompted the indictment.
Breaking Through will follow developments in this case and bring you updates as they become available.
It is important to note that Breaking Through was once a subsidiary of Nexus Services, and that several Breaking Through reporters participated in police accountability protests. As of 2021, Breaking Through is no longer owned by Nexus Services, but it is our policy to note that prior relationship when reporting on matters related to Nexus.