Court hearing for Virginia lawmaker facing felony charges delayed after judge doesn’t show

Jul 19, 2023, 10:16 AM

RUSTBURG, Va. (AP) — A court hearing for a Virginia lawmaker facing felony charges in connection with a hit-and-run that injured a woman was postponed this week after the judge failed to show up.

Republican Del. Matt Fariss had been set for a bench trial Tuesday afternoon on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge in connection with the March incident and a preliminary hearing on two felony charges, according to Don Caldwell, the prosecutor appointed to handle the case. But retired judge Thomas Bondurant — who had also been specially appointed — never showed up, according to Caldwell and local news accounts.

About a half hour after the hearing should have commenced, Campbell General District Presiding Judge Stephanie Maddox told the courtroom that no one had been able to get in touch with Bondurant and the hearing would be rescheduled, the News & Advance reported.

Caldwell said Wednesday by phone that he did not know why the judge was unaccounted for. A new hearing has been scheduled for August.

According to allegations outlined in court records, Fariss got into an argument with a woman he’d been riding with and then struck her with a Chevrolet Tahoe after she walked away from him and refused to get back in the vehicle. State police said the woman suffered minor injuries and that Fariss left the scene but turned himself in the next day.

The woman has said in court documents that she fled from Fariss, fearing that he might shoot her.

Fariss, who was released on bond, has said in a previous statement that the charges against him are false and vowed to fight them in court. His defense attorney, Chuck Felmlee, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Fariss, of Campbell County, has served in the House since 2012. He currently represents the 59th District, which includes Appomattox and Buckingham counties and parts of Albemarle and Nelson counties.

He is seeking re-election in the newly redrawn 51st District, running this year as an independent after not filing paperwork to seek his party’s nomination. Fariss has not clarified whether the political move was intentional.

Eric Zehr, who was unopposed for the GOP nomination after Fariss failed to qualify, has the “full support of the House Republican caucus,” said Dean Goodson, chief of staff to House Speaker Todd Gilbert.

Democrat Kimberly Moran is also running in the deep-red district.

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Court hearing for Virginia lawmaker facing felony charges delayed after judge doesn’t show