Embree believes he’ll be cleared

Posted: August 23, 2013

The Winchester Star

Joseph “Jeph” Embree

WINCHESTER — A special prosecutor has been appointed in the Virginia State Police investigation into a city sheriff nominee’s election registration.

According to court documents, Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Arthur L. Goff was appointed Thursday by Judge John E. Wetsel Jr.

Goff, an Independent, did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Cpl. Joseph “Jeph” Embree of the city Sheriff’s Office — the Republican candidate for sheriff in the Nov. 5 election — has been under investigation since Tuesday.

Sgt. F.L. Tyler of the Virginia State Police, who confirmed the investigation, said Thursday that he could not comment further.

Embree said Thursday that he is aware that questions have been raised about his candidacy.

“All we can do is wait,” he said. “I’m confident that it’s going to come out that I did nothing wrong.”

It remains unclear what exactly the allegations against him are.

Nikki Sheridan, a Virginia State Board of Elections official, said in an email Thursday that she did not have any knowledge of the probe.

According to state election laws, if Embree is found guilty of willfully providing false information on his election registration paperwork, he could face a charge of election fraud — a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.

Meantime, the Republican Party has until Sept. 6 to decide if it wants to replace Embree.

According to state election laws, a party may name — through its chairman — a new candidate if a nominee dies, withdraws or a nomination is set aside.

So, if Embree withdraws, then the party can replace him.

The party can also set aside Embree’s nomination for any reason and get the right to replace him, according to the language of the law.

“If such a matter were to linger with inaction, I presume it becomes harder for the party to set up a re-nomination method by Friday, Sept. 6, 2013,” Sheridan states in her email. “The party must act within the party’s plan in setting up the re-nomination event.”

Beau Correll, chairman of the Winchester Republican Committee, did not say Thursday what the party plans to do.

“Right now we’re in the process of separating fact, fiction and rumor,” he said.

He would not comment further.

According to city Sheriff Lenny Millholland, Embree has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Embree, 52, announced April 12 that he would seek the Republican nomination for the department’s top job. He has served as a corporal in the Winchester Sheriff’s Office for 12 years.

Millholland, who has served as the city’s sheriff since 2002, announced earlier in April that he would not seek a fourth four-year term.

The 55-year-old Democrat, who served in the Winchester Police Department for 22 years before being elected sheriff, ran unopposed in 2005 and 2009.

Leonard Bauserman was selected as the Democratic candidate to run against Embree.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com