Coleman found guilty of sexual battery
© Prince William TimesFor the second time a judge has found former Mayor Chip Coleman, 65, guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery.
Coleman’s appeal from a General District Court conviction in August drew a full house in Circuit Court on Monday, March 2. At the conclusion of the three and one half hour trial substitute Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr. sentenced Coleman to 30 days in jail, all suspended and payment of court costs.
It was a victory of sorts for Coleman who earlier, in General District Court, had been sentenced to a $2,500.00 fine. That sentence too carried no active jail time.
Eight witnesses testified including Jennifer Phillips, 36, who filed the complaint against Coleman, and Coleman himself.
Phillips testified that, while the two had a friendly relationship, a mutual hug “turned into something different,” on the afternoon of December 20, 2013.
Coleman was the last to take the stand. He denied having any intent other than to say hello to a friend he had not seen in two years. Like Phillips, he also testified that the two had hugged as a regular part of their 11-year relationship.
“I thought she was joking,” he said, when Phillips told him the hug could be considered sexual harassment.
The seconds-long hug took place 12 feet from other coworkers including Theresa Jenkins who testified she looked up and saw the two of them in a hug. She heard Phillips say “Somebody help me. I’m being attacked.”
“I thought they were joking,” Jenkins said.
But it soon became apparent to Jenkins that Phillips was upset over the encounter.
Of particular interest to Judge Peatross, based on his questions, was the evidence of a “thump” as the two bumped against a partition wall, Phillips’ immediate report of inappropriate conduct to her superiors, and her asking for “help” during the encounter.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jonathan Slater represented the Commonwealth at both trials. Rex Edwards represented Coleman both times.
Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at email@example.com