Police probe Allen incident; questions linger over '70s court file

A local police chief says his officers want to talk with Allen. A retired local sheriff says he doesn't remember any serious trouble.


Tim Grieve
November 2, 2006 7:49PM (UTC)

We're sure that George Allen's campaign staff has all sorts of events planned for the senator in the final days of his reelection campaign. An interview with the Charlottesville Police Department probably wasn't one of them.

It may be now.

Police served search warrants on Charlottesville TV stations Wednesday in the hope of finding additional videotape of an incident in which three of Allen's supporters grabbed blogger Mike Stark and shoved him to the ground. Stark, who was trying to ask Allen pointed questions about his relationship with his ex-wife and about why his name shows up in a county court file from 1974, has filed a report with the police and asked that charges be pressed.

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At a press conference Wednesday, Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo said that his investigators have "identified a number of people we need to have a discussion with at some point in the next day or so." As a witness to the fight, Longo said, Allen has a place on that list.

Longo said he doesn't know yet whether a crime was committed because he doesn't know all of the circumstances of the confrontation. "Was it contact made in self-defense or defense of another or unprovoked?" he asked. The last of those, he said, "would certainly give rise to criminal conduct."

Allen is blaming the incident on Jim Webb's campaign. The Webb campaign says it has no link to Stark.

Meanwhile, Allen -- who is trailing Webb in three recent polls -- made a move toward addressing questions about that 1974 court filing Wednesday by distributing a statement from George Bailey, who served as the sheriff of Albemarle County from 1970 to 1987.

Bailey says that "at no time during my service as sheriff" was Allen "arrested or brought up on any offense in Albemarle County." Because of Allen's prominence as a University of Virginia football player, Bailey says that any serious incident involving Allen would have been brought to his attention. Bailey says the entry -- or entries -- in the court file could reflect something "as small as an unpaid parking ticket or hunting or fishing license violation," and that "the fact that there is no record of a trial or judgment settles the matter."

Well, maybe. We have no idea what the notation in the court file means, but it strikes us as at least theoretically possible that if Allen was so prominent that any serious incident involving him would have come to the attention of the local sheriff, any such incident might have been disappeared before a trial could ever occur. Is that what happened here? We don't know, and we're not saying it did. Byron York, quoting an unidentified source in the Allen campaign, says Allen's name shows up in the Albemarle County court files because he had unpaid parking tickets one year and got caught fishing without a license another year.

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If that's true, why can't Allen just say so himself -- and why won't he direct the State Bar of Virginia to release files that could back him up?


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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