Gates man guilty of attempted malicious wounding

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2007

SUFFOLK, Va. – Despite his girlfriend’s testimony, that in and of itself would seem to support a Gates County man’s claims of innocence on two felonies and one misdemeanor, a Suffolk (Va.) Circuit Court judge found the man guilty on all counts Wednesday.

Nathaniel Hart, 26, of Gates, was indicted last year on attempted malicious wounding and hit and run/leaving the scene of an accident, both felonies, and a warrant was issued for reckless driving, stemming from an accident and altercation that occurred in March.

According to the prosecution’s main witness, Tracy Foley, of Franklin, she was traveling south on Whaleyville Boulevard just after 10 p.m. March 19 when a car bumped her three times in the rear, each time a bit harder than the previous one, she testified.

Foley said she turned off the road and into a parking lot when the car, a Chevrolet station wagon, crashed into her right rear quarter panel.

The driver of the car, who Foley identified as Hart, walked up to the passenger’s side of Foley’s Jeep and began to yell and threaten his girlfriend, riding with Foley.

Foley said she attempted to stop Hart, but he eventually forced the woman, Shaniqua Norfleet, out of the Jeep and into his car. He then sped away, Foley told the Judge Westbrook Parker, who presided over the non-jury trial.

Parker also heard from a Whaleyville man who lived near the site of the incident, who testified that he saw a black man, who he could not identify, involved in an altercation with the woman in Foley’s Jeep.

The witness went to his home to call police, and when he returned to the crash site, the second car was gone. Foley remained with her vehicle.

Foley said she had offered to take Norfleet home to North Carolina because the woman told her she was afraid of Hart.

A Virginia State Police trooper dispatched to the scene that night told

Judge Parker he arrived about 10: 30 p.m., and the Jeep was the only vehicle there.

However, during her time in the witness stand, Norfleet said she had actually been driving the Chevrolet and Foley, in front of her, indicated she was going to turn left and then “snatched the car” back to the right and crashed into her.

Norfleet said she had never been in Foley’s car that night, despite making contrary statements to the trooper several days after the incident.

She and Hart also said they were following Foley in the Chevrolet, and after the accident spent up to two hours at the scene talking, never being involved in any altercation or yelling.

Assistant Virginia Commonwealth Attorney F. Jefferson James asked Norfleet if she knew what perjury was, and she answered in the affirmative. He then told her that he was prepared to impeach her testimony as it related to what the trooper wrote in his report.

He didn’t need to do that, however, relying heavily on the testimony of the witness who lived nearby in securing a conviction. He said that man didn’t know any of the people involved and had no vested interest in the outcome of the case; therefore, he had no reason to not tell the truth.

The judge agreed, finding Hart guilty on all charges.

Hart was released on an existing $25,000 bond and will return to court May 24 for sentencing.

Defense Attorney Lori B. Miller tried twice, unsuccessfully, to have the attempted malicious wounding charge dropped, saying it didn’t meet the Virginia statute, which calls for intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill. She said her client never intended to do any of those things to the two women.

(Douglas Grant serves as News Editor of The Suffolk News-Herald, a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)