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The expected Friday arraignment of Del. Matt Fariss, R-Campbell County, who’s charged with malicious wounding and is accused of driving his SUV into a woman who had been a passenger in his vehicle, has been rescheduled for May 16.
The incident happened the afternoon of March 2. According to Virginia State Police, Fariss was heading south on U.S. 501 in Campbell County in his 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe when the vehicle crossed the center line, continued off the northbound side of the road and struck a pedestrian, who suffered minor injuries.
Fariss, 54, left the scene but turned himself in the next day and met a state trooper at the magistrate’s office, state police said. He was charged with one count of malicious wounding, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine; one count of failing to stop after an accident, a Class 5 felony; and one count of reckless driving, a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to state police and online court records.
Fariss was released on a $7,500 bond.
According to court records, the injured pedestrian – Julie Miles, 56, of Lynchburg – had been a passenger in Fariss’ SUV, which she said he was driving “excessively fast” until a tire blew out.
“During [the] tire change he became irate with a son whom he called to come help, but [the] son did not have a jack,” Miles said in an affidavit that she filed as part of an application for a protective order against Fariss. “Then he became furious but his son didn’t show up. His mood went dark and he was being angry and abusive.”
Miles said that she got out of the car and began to walk north up U.S. 501 toward her cousin’s house in Winfall. “He was screaming at me” to get into the car, she said. “I said a firm ‘no’ and kept walking,” she said in the affidavit.
Next, Fariss cut a 90-degree turn to the left toward where Miles was walking, and then hit her with his SUV and got out of the vehicle, Miles said in the affidavit. She said she was knocked to the ground, and her “sunglasses flew about 8 feet off my head.”
Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell has been appointed special prosecutor in the case.
Fariss, who denies the allegations, was first elected to represent what is now the 51st House of Delegates district in 2011, succeeding Del. Watkins Abbitt Jr., an independent who retired after 26 years in office. He currently sits on the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources committee, the Appropriations and Public Safety committees, and the Health, Welfare and Institutions committee.
Fariss faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from former Campbell County Supervisor Eric Zehr, who last week was endorsed by Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell County. While the local district GOP has not yet decided on a format, the two Republicans will likely face off at a convention days after Fariss’ court date.
Zehr said in an email Friday that he was praying for Fariss and his family. “I‘m focused on maintaining the trust of the people of this district,” he said. “Our campaign is focused on parental rights, educational freedom, election integrity, and limited government. I have a proven record and I look forward to serving District 51 in Richmond.”