New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | February 26, 2021

Using truck to block county employee, Charles City man found guilty of abduction

By Andre Jones | February 19, 2021 5:12 pm

A Charles City man who prevented a county employee from leaving after doing their job has been found guilty on a single count of abduction.

Joseph E. Brown, 57, of the 7300 block of Trevors Road, received the verdict after a Friday morning contested trial in Charles City Circuit Court.

On July 10, 2020, a Charles City county employee was conducting stormwater and property inspections. The employee went to the property of Brown based on a previous ordinance violation related to having too many inoperable vehicles in his yard. After noticing that Brown was in compliance, the employee left for another property.

As the employee typed of an email in their car at the next property that had violations, Brown walked up the car and tapped on the window. The victim rolled down the window and Brown asked why they had entered onto his property. When the conversation began to escalate, the employee handed Brown a business card and attempted to leave. The employee noticed that they were blocked in and asked Brown to move his vehicle. When Brown refused to move his truck for 10 minutes, the county employee called Charles City Sheriff’s Office for assistance because they felt unsafe in the current situation after they informed the defendant that he could contact the county offices if they had any questions. When the situation became even more uncomfortable, the victim began to look for a way to drive out, eventually settling for driving in a ditch to get back on the roadway.

Defense attorney Wayne Orrell questioned the victim on the whereabouts of the situation. After asking about the dimensions of the construction entrance and pathway where the employee and Brown first interacted, the defense attorney asked about the ability for the victim to drive away.

“Could you have gotten through there before?” Orrell questioned.

After the victim confirmed they believe they could have, they reiterated by saying that Brown was asked to move his vehicle before the employee eventually drove off the property in another direction.

Meanwhile, Charles City Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Tyler called Charles City Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Director Davon Jones to the stand, asking him to play a video of a 9-1-1 call made by Brown to the sheriff’s office. Brown’s call was a profanity-laced tirade with multiple questions on why the employee was on his property.

But the information pointed out specifically came in the call where Brown said on three occasions that he was blocking the employee from leaving.

“I’m blocking them in and they’re driving through the woods,” he said on the tape.

Orrell argued that the employee did not have a warrant and the defendant came out to see who was on his property. However, the employee had authorization under the county’s code to inspect and be on the property when they are conducting official duties.

Brown elected to take the stand on his defense, commenting that he took action after his son notified him of the vehicle in the yard.

“I yelled and I whistled at the person to stop, but they left the yard,” Brown testified. “After they pulled out, I got in my truck and I found them and tapped on the window.”

Orrell finalized his closing argument, saying that the defendant had simply parked his car behind the victim’s and that does not justify an abduction.

“This is a detention problem and here we don’t have detention,” the defense attorney argued. “An abduction focuses on restraining someone. The only thing Mr. Brown did was park his car and didn’t move it. This did not rise to the level of restraint.”

However, Judge B. Elliott Bondurant differed on the view after reading the statute on abduction.

“It was clear that the victim was intimidated when Mr. Brown parked his truck behind the employee’s vehicle and began to curse,” the judge said. “During this point, he has no legal justification to detain the victim.

“He even said on tape that he was blocking the victim in,” Bondurant continued. “At this point, the victim couldn’t get away and was scared. After some time, they realized they could get away and that’s what they did.

“It doesn’t say how long you have to be detained,” the judge said as he wrapped up his comments. “It didn’t say it had to be a week, a day, or 30 minutes. He detained the victim and at this point, I find him guilty of the abduction.”

Formal sentencing for Brown is scheduled for Apr. 23.

In an unrelated case, a Connecticut man entered no contest pleas to two counts of aggravated sexual battery with a minor less than 13 years old as part of a plea agreement.

Keith Tyron Lauray, 55, of Hartford, entered his pleas to the two counts, stipulating that evidence presented in the trial would be enough to convict him of the offenses. Two additional counts of aggravated sexual battery with a minor less than 13 years old were dropped as part of the plea deal.

In a summary of evidence, the Hartford Police Department contacted Charles City Sheriff’s Office after the defendant was hospitalized. During that hospitalization, the defendant told officers that he committed crimes against a minor in 2012. Charles City Sheriff’s Office was able to locate the victim and their mother to question them about the incidents. An investigation revealed that Lauray had kissed and touched the bottom of the minor, a story that collaborated with the same information that the Hartford Police Department had received in his confession.

A presentence report is being prepared with sentencing guidelines recommending a range of two years, two months to six years, eight months to serve. Formal sentencing is scheduled for April 13.