A Greene County man facing criminal charges has brought a federal civil suit against a number of Greene County offices and officials, claiming his rights, under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, have been violated.
Charles Allen Wimer, 46, of Ruckersville, filed a civil suit in Greene County Circuit Court on March 21. Wimer named Greene County Circuit and General District Court, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and the Greene County Magistrate’s Office as defendants; including Greene County Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer, Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Hardin, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Morgane Zander, Sheriff Steve Smith, Sgt. Barry Leake, former General District Court Clerk Barbara Berry and former interim county administrator Brenda Garton.
Wimer is facing criminal charges in Greene County for driving without insurance, assaulting a police officer, eluding police and resisting arrest.
Under ADA, a plaintiff “must allege that (1) he/she has a disability, (2) he/ she is otherwise qualified to receive the benefits of a public service, program or activity, and (3) he/she was excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of such service, program or activity, or otherwise discriminated against, on the basis of his/her disability.”
In filing his suit, Wimer wrote, “local court intentionally creating [sic] communication barriers to prevent me from file [sic] claim” and failed to “provide reasonable accommodations” and “develop policies and procedures” in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Wimer does not directly state which disabilities he claims to have in the letter. However, Wimer does state that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 1980s while in the Fairfax County School system. Wimer also states he was diagnosed with emotional disorders, in addition to learning disabilities. Because of the learning disability, Wimer states in his letter that he can “communicate better verbally than in writing.”
Wimer alleges that court staff advised him to get legal aid assistance in filling out paperwork when the court should have provided the accommodation. Wimer also alleges that the sheriff’s department and court “failed to provide documents in an accessible format” or provide a reader/writer to assist.
This matter caused “severe anxiety and depression” for Wimer and his family, Wimer said. He ends the letter by stating, “with the every daily expansion of law how can the people be required to constantly keep up with every rules procedure and not to mention the fact that Charles Wimer has a problem reading and writing English and law is written out of Latin and uses Latin Charles Wimer clearly does not know Latin.” [sic]
Documents show that an employee of the Central Virginia Regional Jail was notified on July 15, 2018 that Wimer claimed he was disabled and could not read and write, and specifically mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act. The next day, the employee met with Wimer, where Wimer allegedly said he was hoping to get out soon and did not need any accommodations at that time. On July 19, the employee met with Wimer again. At that time, Wimer allegedly said he still did not need any accommodations.
Wimer filed an ADA request for accommodation on July 16, two days before a scheduled arraignment. He requested a “reader/writer prior to court to assist in filing legal documents and during court for any reading or writing defendant is required to do. Use of assistive technology devices such as a tablet to take notes during hearing.” Judge Durrer found that Wimer’s courtappointed attorney was sufficient to meet Wimer’s request. At the request of Wimer’s lawyer, Judge Durrer also ordered an evaluation of Wimer’s sanity at the time of the alleged offense and competency to stand trial.
Greene County Circuit Court, Judge Durrer, Berry and Greene County General District Court Clerk’s Office, represented by Senior Assistant Attorney General Marshall Ross and Assistant Attorney General Blaire Hawkins O’Brien, filed a motion to dismiss Wimer’s suit on April 22. The motion states, “Wimer’s complaint is a transparent attempt to interfere with his ongoing criminal case and the proper functioning of the court system.” It goes on to say that Wimer has not alleged any service, program or activity that has been denied to him.
On April 23, Garton and Greene County, represented by county attorney Thomas Lacheney, filed a motion to dismiss as well – stating that “Brenda Garton and Greene County further state that no allegations of any kind are made that could be interpreted as applying to Brenda Garton in her official capacity as the county administrator for Greene County, or as applying to Greene County in any way.”
From June of 2016 to January of this year, Wimer has filed four similar federal complaints under ADA in other Virginia jurisdictions each time he faced criminal charges. He has yet to be successful.
The April 22 motion to dismiss by Ross and O’Brien states that, “The Jan. 7 case and this matter are the latest editions in Mr. Wimer’s long history of demanding unspecified accommodations from courts throughout the commonwealth the moment he faces legal jeopardy.”