Judge rejects murder charges

A murder charge against a 23-year-old Alexandria man was voided by a Circuit Court judge Thursday after defense attorneys argued the Commonwealth was unfairly prosecuting their client.

Osha Vayacondios Collier, of 3008 Manning St., was charged with murder and use of a firearm in the death of Matthew Allan Ruane. Ruane, 18, was smoking outside his parents’ Dale City home with two friends when he was shot at point-blank range in April 2002. Identical charges against Collier were dismissed last week in General District Court. However, the charges can be brought back.

The Commonwealth brought identical murder and firearm charges against Collier in General District and Circuit courts. Prosecutors then tried to drop the charges in General District Court, where they would have to demonstrate sufficient evidence to continue holding Collier on the charges and send the case to Circuit Court.

Collier remains in jail on an unrelated charge of shooting into an occupied building. He is scheduled for a jury trial on that charge Wednesday.

“This case is so messed up at this point … the only thing that cures it is to arrest [Collier again] on warrants,” defense attorney Kimberly Irving said.

Because he was in jail on an arrest warrant, Virginia law accords Collier a preliminary hearing in which a General District Court judge determines if there is sufficient evidence to continue the case against him in Circuit Court.

Alternatively, prosecutors can seek to directly indict an individual. In those situations, the prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, which decides whether to send the case to trial in Circuit Court, bypassing General District Court.

Collier was held for three months, awaiting his preliminary hearing. The week of his scheduled preliminary hearing, he was directly indicted by the grand jury on the same charges. On the day of the hearing, a prosecutor asked a General District Court to drop the original charges in that court, so that Collier would move directly to trial in Circuit Court.

Instead, the judge agreed with defense attorneys, who argued that Collier deserved the preliminary hearing for which he had been held in jail. When the prosecutor was unprepared to go forward with a preliminary hearing, the judge dismissed the General District Court charges.

“The Commonwealth never subpoenaed witnesses, they never intended to put on a preliminary hearing,” Irving said.

Thursday, Collier’s co-counsel Barry Zweig also asked Circuit Court Judge William D. Hamblen to require the Commonwealth to arrest Collier on warrants and grant him a preliminary hearing when they bring the murder charge against Collier again. Hamblen said he wouldn’t rule on that request, because there is no murder charge against Collier at the moment.

Irving and Zweig said the charges against Collier will definitely be brought back.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 369-6594.