While waiting a trial date on election fraud charges, a local Republican candidate for the 50th House District appeared in General District Court on a charge that he let his dog run at-large.
Steve H. Chapman, 27, was in Prince William General District Court last week charged with letting his dog run loose in August.
By Prince William County law, dogs must be leashed if they are off the owner’s property.
Chapman, who said he received the summons at his Dale City house in April, has questioned the eight-month delay in receiving the summons.
Officers tried to serve Chapman at his Dale City home five times before they were successful April 20, Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane wrote in a letter of clarification released Monday.
Last week, Chapman asked the judge to postpone the dog charge. A new court date has been set in July.
In a phone interview Monday, Chapman said he knew nothing about earlier attempts to serve him with the dog at-large charge.
Chapman said the first time he heard about the charge was when police served him with a warrant at the home he owns at 13708 Kenslow Court in Dale City. Chapman said he was at the house because, at the time, his business office was still in the basement of the house.
Chapman’s residence is the issue of the election fraud charges. A Prince William grand jury indicted him May 2 on charges of felony election fraud, which allegedly took place in October, and misdemeanor illegal voting, which allegedly occurred in November.
Chapman claims he was renting a room in a Manassas Park house during those months. He registered to vote and voted in Manassas Park in the fall of 2004.
The owner of the Manassas Park house has since written a letter stating Chapman paid him $125 a month so that Chapman could run for delegate in the 50th District. Chapman is running in a Republican primary against longtime Delegate Harry J. Parrish.
While Chapman blames Parrish for the election fraud charges, he said he was unsure of Parrish’s involvement with the dog charge.
“I don’t know if [Parrish] is behind it. It’s interesting my dog died eight months ago and for them to charge me with something that happened eight months ago,” Chapman said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Police denied any political interference in the service.
“I don’t think anybody knew who he was,” 1st Sgt. Kim Chinn, police spokeswoman said Monday.
Chief Deane noted that the department serves about 9,000 warrants and summonses a year. Criminal warrants always take precedence over minor matters like an animal control summons, Deane wrote.
During two of the earlier attempts to serve Chapman, officers left messages at his Kenslow Court house, Deane wrote.
The animal control officer who found Chapman’s dog Nixon running free on Fullerton Road on Aug. 8 put a note on the animal shelter file that the owner would receive a summons, according to Deane and Chinn.
Chapman said he wasn’t told anything about a summons when he picked Nixon up Aug. 10.
Chapman and his defense attorney Gilbert K. Davis have asked the court to expedite the election fraud case and clear his name before the June 14 primary.
Chapman asked to have the dog case postponed until after the primary.
“There are just so many things on my mind with the campaign,” Chapman said.
Twice previously, Chapman has been charged with dog running loose violations – in June 2004 and March 2000.
One of the convictions was appealed to Circuit Court, where, Chapman said, the charge was dismissed. There is no record of the case in Circuit Court.
Chapman paid $45 in fines and court costs on the earlier conviction. Chapman said Nixon used to jump the fence. The dog was hit by a car and killed in September, Chapman said.
While election fraud is the first felony Chapman has faced, his record also includes four speeding convictions and four seat belt violations since 1996.
Prince William General District Court records do not show any traffic or misdemeanor charges or convictions for Parrish.
“When you have a service business and drive 30,000 miles a year, occasionally you’ll get stopped,” Chapman said of the traffic charges.
According to his campaign Web site, Chapman has owned a pressure washing business since 1994. “There’s never been anything reckless or a DUI. … When you drive in residential areas you don’t know, you’ll get caught.”
In 1999, Chapman’s driver’s license was suspended because he failed to pay fines and court costs of $80.
He was charged with driving without an operator’s license in September 1999 as a result. He was found guilty and paid $80 in fine and costs in October 1999.
In 2003, Chapman was charged with failing to yield the right of way to the military. Court records indicate a judge reduced the charge to failing to yield to a stop sign.
Chapman’s election fraud charge is awaiting the appointment of a judge.
All the judges on the Prince William Circuit Court bench recused themselves, as did Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert.
The Virginia Supreme Court’s Assistant Executive Secretary, Fred Hodnett, will assign a retired circuit court judge or a judge from another circuit to hear the case.
Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney William W. Davenport has been assigned to prosecute Chapman.
Chapman is scheduled to appear again in General District Court on the dog charge July 6.