Del. Matt Fariss, R-Campbell County. Photo from Facebook.

CORRECTION 1:50 p.m. July 19: A previous version of this story erroneously mixed up two judges with the same last name. The judge presiding over this case is Thomas Bondurant, a retired judge with Henrico County General District Court.

A court appearance by Del. Matt Fariss, R-Campbell County, was continued once again Tuesday after the presiding judge did not show up and could not be reached by phone.

Fariss was due in Campbell County General District Court for a preliminary hearing on two felony charges in an alleged hit-and-run that injured a pedestrian in March and led to the woman obtaining a protective order against him.

Fariss was also set to stand trial Tuesday on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge stemming from the same incident. Thomas Bondurant, a retired judge at Henrico County General District Court, is presiding over the case. Chantel Jones, the clerk at the court in Rustburg, said in an email she has been unable to reach Bondurant since at least Friday.

“It is unusual, but not unheard of,” Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell, who was brought in as special prosecutor in the case, said in a brief interview Tuesday. “We don’t know what happened; hopefully he is not in the hospital. We are going to find out obviously what has happened.”

The hearing was continued until 3 p.m. Aug. 8.

According to Virginia State Police, Fariss, 54, was heading south on U.S. 501 in his 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe on March 2 when the vehicle crossed the centerline, continued off the northbound side of the road and struck a pedestrian, who suffered minor injuries. 

Fariss 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 then released on a $7,500 bond. He was initially due to appear in court on March 17, but his hearing was pushed back twice, most recently in May, when it was continued at the request of both sides. 

Court records also show that the injured pedestrian — Julie Miles, 56, of Lynchburg — had been in the passenger seat of 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 the affidavit that she filed seeking the protective order. “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, yelling that “I should have gotten into the g——-d car,” Miles said in the affidavit. She said she was knocked to the ground, and her “sunglasses flew about 8 feet off my head.” 

Fariss, who lives in Rustburg, was first elected to represent the 59th 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. 

But at the end of March, Fariss missed the deadline for filing his intent to once again seek the Republican nomination in the newly created 51st House of Delegates District. Former Campbell County Supervisor Eric Zehr, who was gearing up to mount an intraparty challenge, became the GOP’s nominee by default.  

Last month, Fariss filed to run as an independent in the upcoming House of Delegates elections. His move fueled speculations that his failure to submit his paperwork for the Republican primary may have been unintentional. He has not publicly addressed his legal woes or his future political ambitions.

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at or 804-822-1594.