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Prosecutor decries handling of lawyer’s traffic case

Both the judge and the prosecutor had conflicts of interest in their handling of the case of a Williamsburg lawyer charged with a DUI, according to a substitute prosecutor involved in the case.

Charles City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tyler cried foul about a June hearing in which Circuit Judge Samuel Powell effectively dismissed one charge and deferred finding on another, even though the accused lawyer had pleaded guilty.

Tyler said told the Daily Press the situation was “disgraceful” because both the judge and the prosecutor were longtime acquaintances with the defendant, lawyer Stephen Harris.

Tyler had been appointed special prosecutor for the charges against Harris, but he said he was not told about the hearing where Harris appeared before Powell. Williamsburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green told the paper he handled the circuit court hearing without calling Tyler because Harris was pleading guilty and because the more serious charges already had been dismissed.

Powell, the circuit court judge, announced last week his plans to retire from the bench next year. He recused himself from Harris’ case after Tyler objected to the handling of the matter.

A hearing is scheduled Dec. 21 before retired Richmond Circuit Judge Ted Markow on a charge that Harris refused to take a breath test when he was stopped on suspicion of drunken driving last November. A refusal conviction carries a mandatory one-year license suspension, without a possibility of a restricted license for work.

The Daily Press posted a motion for hearing filed by Tyler that describes his concerns about the handling of the case.

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