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Nicole Cole

Judge dismisses Spotsylvania School Board member’s assault and battery charge

by | Jul 1, 2024 | ALLFFP, Courts and crime, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania

After an hour of testimony from six witnesses, Judge Gene Woolard dismissed a misdemeanor assault and battery charge against Spotsylvania County School Board member Nicole Cole in Spotsylvania General District Court on Monday morning. 

Cole was accused of slamming a door into the shoulder of fellow board member Lisa Phelps during a May 20 meeting and extending her leg to cause Phelps to trip. 

Woolard said that even if the incidents took place, criminal intent was not established. Cole testified that her feet were stationary when Phelps walked into her. She also testified that the alleged door-slamming incident was “totally fabricated.” 

Cole said after the trial that she is not relieved and does not feel vindicated because she “knew it was all a lie.” She said at no point during the trial was she concerned about the outcome. 

“I knew the truth was always on my side,” she said. 

With no commonwealth’s attorney handling the case, Phelps served as the prosecutor. She had several supporters in attendance, including former Spotsylvania Superintendent Mark Taylor. 

Cole had more than a dozen supporters present, as well.  

Phelps called on fellow board member April Gillespie to testify to support her claim.  

Cole was represented by attorney Charles King, who called Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Franklin Fleming, School Board Attorney Micah Schwartz, Interim Superintendent Kelly Guempel, school board representative Carol Medawar and Cole to testify. 

“The interim superintendent and the school board attorney had to be here unnecessarily,” Cole said. “It’s a distraction from the business of the school board, being done for personal and selfish reasons. We really need to stay focused on the kids.”  

None of the witnesses King called were aware of the door slamming or the trip. 

But Phelps cross-examined Schwartz and Guempel, noting that their backs were to the door when the alleged incident happened and that they could not “see feet,” to know if a trip occurred. 

Tensions grew when Phelps cross-examined Medawar and posed the same question regarding if she could see her and Cole’s feet. 

“I could see your feet were carrying you across the floor,” Medawar said.  

Medawar and Fleming testified to Phelps’ state of mind at the meeting, with Medawar saying that she turned on her phone to record the meeting because Phelps was “yelling and screaming and calling me evil.” Fleming said that after the alleged incident Phelps shouted: “Arrest me, arrest me! Put the handcuffs on me!”  

Fleming also said Phelps did not report the alleged incident to him or any other law enforcement or security officer on hand that night. 

Gillespie was the lone witness to support Phelps’ claim. Gillespie also testified that she encouraged Phelps to file the charge the following morning, and they went to the magistrate’s office together. Gillespie expressed concern to Phelps that the contentiousness with Cole could escalate if a charge was not filed.   

The incident stemmed from a closed session portion of the meeting. Cole, who is the vice chair, was serving as the chair because Lorita Daniels had not yet arrived. The board was entering closed session to discuss a reprimand of Phelps that was approved during a previous meeting. It was overturned that night. 

According to testimony, Phelps departed the closed session room at least three times and left the door open. Cole said she stood up to shut the door, being that it was not an open meeting. Phelps alleged on one of the times she returned to the room, Cole slammed the door into her shoulder and tripped her, causing her to stumble.  

Phelps said that Schwartz told Cole not to put her foot on the door to block it, but Cole testified that conversation did not occur. 

Woolard, who is a visiting judge from Virginia Beach, entered the trial with no knowledge of the school board or its well-documented issues but said it is apparent there is hostility.  

“Chaos is a good word,” he said. 

Woolard compared the case to domestic issues he often encounters in the courtroom. He said he always reminds parents with children that the kids should be the primary focus. 

“The only thing really important for the school board is the education of the children,” he said.  

 

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