- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2005

Local prosecutors have dropped charges of election violations against a Virginia House of Delegates candidate who lost his anti-tax campaign to unseat Delegate Joe T. May in last month’s primary.

Mr. May, Leesburg Republican, had filed a nine-count criminal complaint against challenger Christopher G. Oprison, accusing the anti-tax conservative of violating election law by allowing someone not legally qualified to collect signatures to run his petition drive.

Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney Suzanne “Sunny” Perka said this week that no crime was committed.

“After a thorough investigation of the allegations made in said complaint, with the assistance of the Virginia State Police, I have determined that no criminal law violations or unlawful conduct took place for which any prosecution or further investigation is warranted,” she said.

The charges specifically accused Mr. Oprison’s campaign manager of illegally leaving a petition at a government center overnight and of having someone who was underage collect signatures, among other violations.

Mr. Oprison said the charges were politically motivated.

“Joe didn’t want to be challenged. He was doing this to scare my campaign manager out of the race and to distract from the issues,” Mr. Oprison said Wednesday. “They were bogus charges and Joe knew it.”

The charges were “absolutely not” politically motivated, said Dave Juday, a spokesman for Mr. May’s campaign.

“He would not have filed these things if he didn’t think it was a real issue,” Mr. Juday said. “We’ll respect her judgment. That’s her judgment, but we do feel the law is crystal clear and the issue of enforcement is not so clear.”

Mr. May still thinks state law was violated, Mr. Juday said. “It’s not politically motivated; it’s a matter of law enforcement,” he said.

Mr. May won the nomination by 60 percent of the vote.

Mr. Oprison noted the number of votes between the two candidates was about 900.

“That’s not a whole lot. The charges probably scared some voters away,” he said. “This isn’t sour grapes; this is vindication.”

Another unsuccessful anti-tax candidate challenging an incumbent in Prince William County will go to trial on election fraud charges filed against him during the heat of the campaign.

Steve H. Chapman, who challenged Delegate Harry J. Parrish in the Republican primary, denies a charge that he lied on a voter registration form in 2004.

He also has been charged with a misdemeanor crime by Prince William County prosecutors, who said he voted in a district where he did not reside.

Mr. Chapman said Mr. Parrish was behind the charges and accused the Manassas Republican of hiring a private investigator to follow him.

Mr. Parrish has denied any involvement in the case.

The trial date is set for late September.

Mr. Chapman also has been convicted of allowing his dog to roam without a leash last August. The charges were filed this spring, more than eight months after his dog died.

Because the dog had died, the judge did not require Mr. Chapman to pay the fine.

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