By Wesley Edwards
Lamberto Malonado and his daughter Sonia Malonado were both in Northampton County Circuit Court on Thursday facing giving a false report to police officers and obstruction of justice related to a hit and run case that occurred on December 30, 2016. Both entered not guilty pleas with Judge Lewis presiding over a bench trial that lasted all day.
In his opening statement Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones told the court that hospital records show that Justin Travis was injured in an accident that occurred on Robinson Road near Eastville at approximately 2:30 AM on December 30, 2016. According to the police report a black Nissan truck that was registered to Lamberto was rolled more than 20 yards into a field. Blood was found in the vehicle, but both Lamberto and his daughter told police officers that the vehicle had been stolen from Lamberto’s front yard and that they had no knowledge of who or how the wreck occurred. The investigation led the police to Justin Travis who had been hospitalized in Norfolk after leaving Kelly’s Pub in Cape Charles with Sonia’s brother Everado, who was identified by several witnesses as being the driver of the black pickup truck when it left Kelly’s with Justin Travis in the passenger seat. FBI agent Wendell Cosendza testified that Sonia’s cell phone records indicated that she may have arranged for the transportation of Justin Travis to the Norfolk hospital which the Commonwealth felt was an attempt to cover up the fact that her brother Everado was the actual driver. According to witnesses, Everado often used his father’s pickup truck. Travis admitted that he was intoxicated and had been in the truck before being transported to Norfolk General Hospital. He also testified he had been working a 16 hour day, had consumed 3 to 4 beers before leaving work and an unknown amount of alcohol at Kelly’s and had little or no recollection of how he got to Norfolk General Hospital. He confirmed that hospital records showed that it was his blood in the seat of the Nissan black pickup truck.
Defense attorney Wilder, who was representing Lamberto, and defense attorney Bales, who represented Sonia, argued in their closing statements that no witness or evidence placed either defendant at the scene or in the vehicle therefore at the best there had to be reasonable doubt.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones closed arguing that it was very clear, based on the evidence, that both had lied to the investigating officers about the vehicle being stolen when they knew that Everado was the likely driver who now has been arrested and charged with hit-and-run and is scheduled for trial in February. Jones emphasized that it was Sonia’s and Lamberto intent to obstruct and mislead the investigation to protect Everado. Jones also stated that the defendants encouraged their brother to hide the fact that he was driving.
After a motion from the defense attorneys to strike, Judge Lewis did strike the charge of making a false report but subsequently found both defendants guilty on obstruction charges before continuing the case for sentencing until February 12, 2018 after a presentence and criminal record could be prepared.