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Matt Fariss court hearing delayed after judge doesn't show

A person with a mustache wearing a blue jacket points their finger as they speak
Steve Helber
/
AP
Del. Matt Fariss (R-Appomattox) speaks during a House session at the state Capitol, Jan. 31, 2022, in Richmond, Va. A court hearing for the Virginia lawmaker facing felony charges in connection with what law enforcement called a hit-and-run that injured a woman was postponed on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, after the judge failed to show up for a hearing.

The Appomattox delegate is accused of striking a woman with an SUV after she refused to get back in the vehicle.

A court hearing for a Virginia lawmaker facing felony charges in connection with a hit-and-run that injured a woman was postponed this week after the judge failed to show up.

Del. Matt Fariss (R–Appomattox) had been set for a bench trial — meaning there would be no jury — Tuesday afternoon on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge in connection with the March incident and a preliminary hearing on two felony charges, according to Don Caldwell, the prosecutor appointed to handle the case.

But retired judge Thomas Bondurant — who had been specially appointed — never showed up, according to Caldwell and local news accounts.

About a half-hour after the hearing should have commenced, Campbell General District Presiding Judge Stephanie Maddox told the courtroom that no one had been able to get in touch with Bondurant and the hearing would be rescheduled, The News & Advance reported.

Caldwell said Wednesday by phone that he did not know why the judge was unaccounted for. A new hearing has been scheduled for August.

According to allegations outlined in court records, Fariss got into an argument with a woman he'd been riding with and then struck her with a Chevrolet Tahoe after she walked away from him and refused to get back in the vehicle. State police said the woman had minor injuries and that Fariss left the scene but turned himself in the next day.

The woman said in court documents that she fled from Fariss, fearing that he might shoot her.

Fariss, who was released on bond, said in a previous statement that the charges against him are false and vowed to fight them in court. His defense attorney, Chuck Felmlee, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Fariss, of Campbell County, has served in the House since 2012. He currently represents the 59th District, which includes Appomattox and Buckingham counties and parts of Albemarle and Nelson counties.

He is seeking re-election in the newly redrawn 51st District this year, running as an independent after not filing paperwork to seek his party's nomination. Fariss has not clarified whether the political move was intentional.

Eric Zehr, who was unopposed for the GOP nomination after Fariss failed to qualify, has the "full support of the House Republican caucus," said Dean Goodson, chief of staff for House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R–Shenandoah).

Democrat Kimberly Moran is also running in the deep-red district.

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