A member of Altavista Town Council pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanors tied to neglect during the course of his election last year.
Timothy Holmes George, 58, was originally indicted on two felony counts of perjury in May. Those charges trace back to June 2018, when George was collecting signatures to run in the November election.
George personally obtained five petitions for candidacy, where registered voters sign their names and enter some identifying information to support a potential candidate and qualify them to run in an election. He left two of them unattended at the front desk of the Altavista Area YMCA, according to special prosecutor Andrew Nester, where four voters told investigators they signed the petitions without George present.
On top of the petitions he obtained, George had three other people help him circulate petitions: Altavista Mayor Michael Maddox, fellow town council member Tracy Emerson and Maria McCracken, associate executive director of the Altavista Area YMCA, according to Nester. None of them are accused of any wrongdoing.
In turning in the petitions, George signed under oath that he “personally witnessed each and every signature that he reported as being collected by him,” according to Nester.
Nester, the Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney, said a complaint was originally brought to the Campbell County Registrar’s office, which then turned it over to Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul McAndrews. With required authorization from the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, Virginia State Police investigated the complaint and Nester was brought on as a special prosecutor to that investigation in March.
In explaining the reasoning for the plea agreement, Nester told Campbell Circuit Court Judge John Cook he considers perjury to be a crime where someone intentionally lies to cover something up or benefit. He said he didn’t believe that’s what George was doing; rather, he was “doing something out of necessity, if you will.”
He added George had no criminal history and didn’t believe his actions warranted a felony conviction — which would have impeded his current term as a member of town council.
Nester added after the plea hearing that all the signatures came from qualified voters and George would’ve been on the November ballot regardless, but he wanted to hold George responsible for not following election rules.
Jail time is par for the course when a felony is downgraded to a misdemeanor in Henry County, Nester said, so he sought a total of 10 days of jail time for George by way of home electronic monitoring, in addition to a $500 total fine and 150 hours of community service within a year. Cook accepted the plea deal and George will have to be on good behavior for five years and will have 30 days to start his period of home electronic monitoring.
Glenn Berger, George’s attorney, said after the hearing he’s “not certain that all public servants are aware of the technicalities and the importance of the technicalities” of the electoral process.
George remains on town council and was present for its Tuesday meeting after his plea.
“I love living in this small town of Altavista and I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes along the way but they were never for political, personal or financial gain,” George wrote in a prepared statement. “…I look forward to things getting back to normal and finishing this term on council.”
Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.