The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Jury acquits woman in courthouse scuffle
BY KEITH EPPS
A Spotsylvania woman was cleared Wednesday of charges stemming from a Oct. 6 dispute outside the Stafford County Judicial Center.
Belinda M. Yates had been charged with felony obstruction of justice and assault and battery.
She was accused of punching a woman who had testified against her nephew, Antonio Navarro–Covert, during a hearing that day.
Yates maintained from the start that she was the one who was assaulted.
A jury acquitted Yates of the assault charge following a trial in Stafford Circuit Court.
Judge William H. Ledbetter Jr. dismissed the obstruction charge before the jury even considered it, saying the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence.
Defense attorney J. Bruce Strickland argued that the prosecution’s evidence was full of inconsistencies and didn’t prove anything.
It was the second time this month that a member of Yates’ family had won a victory in Stafford Circuit Court. On May 2, a judge overturned gang-related convictions against Navarro–Covert, ruling that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence favorable to the defendant to which he was entitled.
A jury had recommended that Navarro–Covert, 22, serve six years in prison for his role in a disturbance at a large party in the Hartwood area in April of last year.
A young man that Navarro–Covert was accused of assaulting described his attacker as someone who looks nothing like Navarro–Covert, attorney Jim Ilijevich alleged. Judge J. Howe Brown set aside the convictions and scheduled a new trial in July.
Navarro–Covert and others have been accused of being part of a gang, the “Goon Squad.” The families have steadfastly denied any gang affiliation and claim they are being unjustly targeted by police.
Anjaulyeke Covert–Bryant, Yates’ mother and Navarro–Covert’s grandmother, is also charged with participating in gang activity and has trials scheduled for July and August, court records state.