PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Should Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson have charged Mayor Kenny Wright with felony eluding? A local attorney says “no”.
“It’s clear that the mayor and the sheriff aren’t getting along,” said Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson.
That feud was given an exclamation point after Portsmouth City Council meeting Tuesday night. Watson says he tried to tell Wright his inspection sticker was seven months expired. The Mayor kept driving and started what he calls a “slow speed” chase. Watson ended up charging Wright with felony eluding.
“The mayor clearly disregarded the sheriff,” Anderson added.
Anderson says even with the mayor’s actions, he should have never been charged with a felony because that’s usually reserved for high-speed chases.
“I suspect the magistrate heard evidence from the sheriff that he felt that he was endangered by the mayor driving off, but the mayor drove off at a very slow speed,” Anderson said.
Anderson believes the charge should have been a class two misdemeanor which only comes with a fine unlike the class six felony which could land the Mayor in jail for five years.
“As a defense attorney, all you can do is try the case and argue that the section of the law that deals with endangering life, limb or property doesn’t apply in the specific facts of this case,” Anderson added.
That doesn’t change the fact that the mayor’s car hadn’t been inspected and that he should have stopped.
“At the end of the day the sheriff is a law enforcement officer, and if he puts his lights on in a motor vehicle you have to stop,” Anderson added.
The Mayor will be arraigned on the charge Jan. 29.
“The whole thing was kind of shocking quite frankly,” said Portsmouth City Councilman Bill Moody. “Any citizen, I think, when they see the lights in the rear view mirror from a police officer, you’re not going to say ‘that’s not a police officer I don’t like so I’m not going to pull over.’’’