- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) — A Charlottesville woman is looking for an explanation and an apology after being held in jail for a month after a grand jury”s decision not to indict her.

Jennifer White, 39, was released on bond Tuesday after her lawyer discovered the grand jury made the decision Aug. 20.

“I have not been able to take care of my responsibilities or exercise any of my rights because I”ve been held inside a facility longer than I should have been,” White said Wednesday. “I”m extremely upset about it.”

The public defender”s office and city authorities disagree on the reasons for the delay.

White”s attorney and others in the public defender”s office point to the circuit-court clerk”s office and said officials failed to provide a public document, despite numerous requests, leading to the extended jail stay.

Charlottesville”s top prosecutor said the clerk”s office is not at fault.

“I don”t think that is a fair criticism when an agency with a great number of cases in front of the court can have the firsthand, best information hot off the press,” said Commonwealth”s Attorney Warren D. Chapman.

He also said White”s attorney could have found out the grand jury”s decision the day it occurred, if a representative of the public defender”s office attended an open-court hearing in August.

But Charlottesville”s public defender said the case underscores larger issues.

He said that there is an ongoing problem with the availability of documents in the clerk”s office and that he will consider taking the dispute before a judge.

“We may have to ask the court to intervene,” public defender Jim Hingeley said.

Authorities arrested White this summer and charged her with obtaining money by false pretenses.

She purportedly organized a bridal expo that never materialized and failed to return deposits from prospective vendors.

A judge certified the charge against her at a preliminary hearing and White, a convicted felon, was held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond.

But on Aug. 20, a grand jury decided not to indict her, stalling the case.

Usually in such circumstances, the prosecutor and the defense attorney immediately schedule a bond hearing, and the defendant is released if no other charges are pending.

But White sat in jail for a month before prosecutors and her attorney realized that she was not indicted.

Valerie L”Herrou, White”s attorney, said she didn”t learn that her client hadn”t been indicted until Friday, and Mr. Hingeley said he does not think anybody notified his office prior to that.

But White isn”t interested in squabbling. She just wants an explanation.

“An apology in a situation like this goes a long way,” she said.

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