Portsmouth mayor released on bond for felony charge

Photo Courtesy: Portsmouth Police

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A Sheriff’s Office spokesman tells 10 On Your Side Sheriff Bill Watson chased Mayor Kenny Wright through parts of Portsmouth over an expired inspection sticker Tuesday night.

Watson took out a warrant Wednesday for a felony eluding charge in the wake of Tuesday night’s incident. With the warrant taken out, Wright had to turn himself in Wednesday.

Wright was released Wednesday afternoon on a personal recognizance bond. He is due in court on Jan. 29 for an arraignment hearing.

“I’m tired of the Mayor trying to run the city like he’s a God,” said Watson.

Watson is never one to hold back and it’s no secret about his dislike for Wright.

“How arrogant is he to ride around with an expired inspection sticker for seven months and think he is going to get by with it,” asked Watson?

Watson says that the inspection sticker on his car had been expired for seven months.

Captain Lee Cherry says the incident happened outside City Hall after Tuesday night’s city council meeting. Sheriff Watson noticed Mayor Wright’s inspection sticker expired in June of 2015. The Sheriff’s Office says Watson tried to tell Mayor Wright about the problem, but the Mayor brushed him off and drove away.

“He just totally ignored me which he does with all law enforcement,” Watson added.  “I got in the car and I proceeded and I stopped him at the traffic circle.  He then drove off again.”

That’s when the sheriff tried to pull the mayor over. Captain Cherry says the mayor would not stop. He says this happened two more times before the sheriff called police for back-up.

Police officers pulled over the mayor. Captain Cherry says Sheriff Watson issued Mayor Wright a ticket for the expired inspection sticker. Cherry says more charges could be coming.

“It was a traffic ticket to start with and now it’s a class 6 felony,” Watson said.  “How smart is that?”

Watson described the incident as a “low-speed pursuit.”

“To suggest he was trying to elude in anyway is a stretch,” said Wright’s attorney Michael Massie.

10 On Your Side spoke with Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson who says a class 6 felony eluding is used mostly on high speed chases when a driver is putting lives at risk.  It is punishable by five years in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Anderson believes the Mayor should have been charged with a class 3 misdemeanor eluding.  That’s used in slow speed chases and only comes with a fine.

“The Mayor is not a criminal,” Massie added.  “He was in no way trying to elude the sheriff.  Obviously there was some disagreement.  He’s the Mayor of this city.  How is he going to elude the sheriff.”

Wright will have a court appearance January 29th.

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