Judge denies two motions from indicted Portsmouth councilman’s defense

Portsmouth Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker. Credit: WAVY-TV 10

PORTSMOUTH, Va. ( WAVY) — A judge has denied two motions from the attorneys of Portsmouth councilman Mark Whitaker — one of which was a motion to dismiss indictments due to lack of evidence.

10 On Your Side has covered the investigation — and subsequent indictment — of Whitaker for months.

The Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into Whitaker back in March. The councilman is faced with 20 felony charges and is accused of identity fraud and forgery.

The investigation centers around Whitaker’s Church, Bethel Baptist, and its ties to a failed credit union. The commonwealth claims Whitaker forged the names of three different people on checks dating back to 2013 and 2014.

READ: Full Indictment Against Mark Whitaker

Whitaker’s defense attorneys filed motions to get the case dismissed in October.

Whitaker’s defense said in court Monday that the women mentioned in the affidavits say they are not the people who brought the complaint against Whitaker — that it was done by the sheriff’s office. The defense team brought in the two women to essentially testify what they put in their affidavit

Andrew Robbins, the special prosecutor, said there was no procedure for this type of hearing pre-trial, calling the motion — as well as the hearing of it — inappropriate. The judge agreed, and said this would deny the jury an opportunity to hear the evidence.

John Babineau, one of Whitaker’s attorneys, argued in court that Judge William Moore abused his discretion to recuse himself because he did not do it in a timely manner.

Moore was one of three judges who asked to be recused from the case back in April. A new judge was assigned to case one week later.

Whitaker’s defense asked the court to find that Moore was not impartial. They asked that the special grand jury to be undone because of the improper action of the judge.

Babineau said Moore didn’t recuse himself at first — even though he knew the case involved Whitaker — and waited until after the indictment was handed down.

Robbins argued there is no requirement that the judge recuse himself on some chance there may be a conflict.

The judge decided Monday that there was no formal motion made by the defense for Moore to recuse himself, so the judge found no prejudice and denied the motion.

Two other motions from Whitaker’s defense were being heard Monday, in reference to sealed grand jury testimony. Members of the public and the media were asked to leave the courtroom while the motions were being discussed.

While speaking off-camera with media members on Monday afternoon, Whitaker said: “The road to vindication is a long road but I’m determined. I’m prepared and ready to travel. The dates are still in place.”

Earlier this month, Whitaker and his wife sat down for an exclusive interview with 10 On Your Side to speak publicly about the charges against him. He called the charges politically motivated and maintained his innocence.

The trial is slated to be held in March of 2018.