William and Mary sexual assault case goes to grand jury

WILLIAMSBURG – A James City County man accused of raping a female College of William and Mary student had the charge certified Thursday to the grand jury following tearful testimony from the woman, but it came following a contentious start to the preliminary hearing in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.

Judge Colleen Killilea found probable cause to send the case to Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court. There, a grand jury will convene May 19 and if it finds sufficient evidence, the case will then go to trial in circuit court.

That contentious start centered on who would represent Jerome White, 50, accused of raping the woman. He told Killilea during the hearing he was dissatisfied with his representation.

Attorney Paul Freeman, who is representing White for now, asked that the case to be continued for two weeks to allow Patricia Nagel to take over as White’s attorney.

Nagel told the court she was “in the process” of being retained, as the White family was trying to come up with the full amount of the retainer fee.

But Killilea said that with numerous witnesses for the woman having come from out-of-town, no signed order of substitution allowing Nagel to officially become White’s attorney, and with the hearing having been scheduled for at least two months, she would not delay the preliminary hearing, keeping Freeman as White's attorney for now.

Fennig ended up calling two witnesses, Williamsburg Police Sgt. Bruce Johnson and the woman.

Johnson testified that he encountered the woman and White on Scotland Street Dec. 3 around 2 a.m. near First Baptist Church. Johnson said he walked in their direction after hearing “a sound like a gunshot” and saw White with his arm around the left shoulder of the woman.

Upon approaching the two of them, Johnson said the defendant walked away, and saw the woman without a coat and with just one shoe on and mascara running on her face.

“She looked like a child scared,” Johnson said.

Johnson told the court the woman tried to respond to his questions, but no sound was coming from her mouth as her body was shaking and lips were moving. She responded to him in the affirmative, he said, when he asked if she was a William and Mary student. 

He said he walked her across the street from the outside of the church to King and Queen Apartments, where she lived, trying to find out what was wrong, but she didn't say, and she went into the apartment.

The woman later testified that it was in the apartment where she admitted to her roommate she had been raped.

Johnson said he later encountered White at the Wawa on Richmond Road.

The woman testified she had consumed several alcoholic drinks over the course of the evening, meeting White while walking back to her apartment.

White "asked me how I was doing" and said "I was a pretty girl. He'd take care of me. He told me his name."

She said in court he placed his hands on her shoulders, describing the pressure as not forceful, "but enough to throw you off."

The woman said the next thing she remembered was being on the ground. She said he told her, "You're OK, you're fine."

She testified that when White was on top of her, she was looking at her bedroom window and not at him. She said she asked him to stop, but was unsure if she said it loudly.

"I froze," she said in testimony.

In Williamsburg-James City County General District Court documents, White admitted to police he touched and kissed the woman and tried to obtain an erection, but denied raping her.

The moments after the incident she described in court as "an out-of-body experience," and recalled little besides trying to find her Converse shoe. She said she did remember being on the lawn near the church when she noticed the lights from the police car.

"It was like my mind and my body disconnected," she said.

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