- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

Prince William County [Md.] Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert will prosecute Chesapeake Mayor William E. Ward, who is charged with assaulting an aide of Republican House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.
Chesapeake Commonwealth's Attorney Randall D. Smith asked Mr. Ebert to take up the case this week, saying he could not prosecute because of a possible conflict of interest. Mr. Ward, a Democrat, is accused of hitting Charles S. Faulkner IV on the face and grabbing his crotch outside the Chesapeake Convention Center on June 16.
"The defendant is the mayor, and even though most of my budget comes from the state, I still appear before him, I still see him at different times, " Mr. Smith said, adding that he felt it would be better to have someone else handle the case.
Mr. Smith said he chose Prince William County because of the "notoriety" of the case. "I was trying to be fair and needed a prosecutor from outside, " he said.
He added that transferring cases to attorneys in other commonwealth areas was a fairly common practice.
Mr. Ebert, who was contacted by Mr. Smith this week, said yesterday that he had not yet had a chance to familiarize himself with the case, and that it may come up for trial only at the end of August.
"I haven't yet talked to the defendant or counsel. I have no facts yet," he said.
He added that he had dealt with similar cases against politicians before, but never one in which the defendant was charged with assault.
Mr. Ward was charged last week with a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. He has served on the Chesapeake City Council since 1978 and has been mayor since 1990.
Mr. Ward's office yesterday referred all calls to his attorney, Peter Decker, who did not respond.
In a statement released last week, the mayor said he regretted that Mr. Faulkner "had elected to escalate our disagreement."
The incident took place during a campaign stop by state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, a Democratic candidate for the 4th Congressional District. Mr. Ward said Mr. Faulkner was in a group of people who were removing Mrs. Lucas' campaign signs outside the Chesapeake Conference Center.
Mr. Faulkner denies taking down the signs. "Knowing who I work for, I knew it would be a bad thing if someone was to do illegal stuff. So I insisted no one touch any of the signs," he said.
About Mr. Ebert handling his case, he said: "This case is in the hands of the commonwealth. I'm happy to do whatever the commonwealth wants to do."
He added that by prosecuting Mr. Ward, he was trying to set the "right example" for people who think they might get away with assault.
In his statement, Mr. Ward has said Mr. DeLay was "allowing his staff to engage in these thuglike tactics" in Virginia. Mr. Faulkner, however, denied any political motivation.
"I am not making this a political case. I just happen to be coincidentally working up in Washington," he said.

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