The battle between two Virginia lawmakers pitted against each other after the district boundaries were redrawn heated up during a GOP fundraiser at the Wytheville Meeting Center on Sept. 24, with Del. Marie March filing a complaint against Del. Wren Williams alleging assault and battery.
In the complaint filed Saturday, March R-Floyd, alleged “tonite (sic) I was @ (sic) the GOP fundraiser @ (sic) the Wytheville Meeting Center and my opponent intentionally pushed/shouldered slammed into me in front of a large group of people.”
Williams, R-Stuart, said he accidentally bumped into March when exiting the building, and immediately apologized.
The contact was “like you would bump into the corner of a wall, but it wasn’t intentional,” Williams said, and alleged the resulting complaint is a political “hit job.”
In a telephone interview Monday afternoon, March said before the incident took place, Williams “was walking up to various conversations and trying to pick a fight with these people, and I heard about some of that throughout the night, and I witnessed one altercation with one of the Board of Supervisor members of Carroll County.”
As the evening wound down, March said attendees were talking, taking photos, and filtering out of the center. March said she was turned, talking to groups of people near to where the room opened into another room.
“I guess he came diagonally. I’m not sure because I wasn’t paying attention to him. I didn’t even realize until the last seconds that it was Wren. I wasn’t paying attention,” she said.
“There was no corridor, there was no hallway. One big room empties out into another huge room. Wren didn’t need to be anywhere near me. He had 30-feet. He could have been 30-feet away,” she said, and alleged that Williams changed his course when leaving the room, went over to her and slammed into her as he walked past.
“Everybody saw it. We have eight eyewitnesses. People like gasped when he did it. They were like, ‘Oh my God, are you okay?’ It was a scene,” she said.
“I think he realized he hit me really hard, and he realized probably that it looked worse than what he was planning. I don’t know exactly, but he left,” she said.
One of her aides ran to the police who were on scene and brought them over to her, March said, and “they asked if I wanted to press charges. I said absolutely. It was abuse.”
“This was a huge facility, there was ample space, and it was not overly crowded. He could have gone any direction and he chose to slam into me. He did not brush up against my shoulder. He slammed into me.”
Williams provided a different account of the incident.
At the end of the night, Williams said the event shifted more into a party. “It became very loud, and it had gotten late. I live a good distance away and my six-month pregnant wife was interested in going home and getting off her feet,” he said.
As they prepared to leave, Williams said he noticed March was standing with a group of people just outside the door in a semi-circle.
“They had been standing there for quite a while, and I felt like we needed to leave and that was the exit, so we were going to have to basically make our way there. My wife was hesitant because she knows what can happen when you get around people like that,” he said.
But his wife’s “feet were swollen and hurting,” due to the pregnancy, he said. “So, we went ahead and went through that door.”
William said he decided to go first, and “when I walked through there, something caught my arm and spun me around and I immediately said, ‘oh, I’m sorry,’ and I kept going, and I realized that it was Marie March. I immediately apologized and said, ‘Oh sorry’ and then I kept walking,”
Williams said March then “freaked out, caused a giant commotion and had the cops sought after me for accidentally bumping into her.”
Williams said he did not feel the contact in his shoulder, his triceps or his upper arm. Rather, “it was something in my elbow. It spun me around,” he said.
One of the two videos, released by Williams Monday night, shows the exchange. The other shows March recreating her version of the incident for law enforcement officers.
The first video is more of a wide-shot general hallways view that is “unfortunately pretty grainy,” Williams said. However, at the 8:55:40 mark, the recording shows Williams pass through a large group of people, turn twice, and then continue to walk forward, followed by his legislative assistant and then, his wife.
At 8:55:42 p.m., Williams said he accidentally bumped into March, and at 8:55:43, the video shows Williams turning, he said to apologize to March.
The 9:01:29 to 9:01:32 p.m. time stamp of the second video, which is in color, shows March reenacting the incident.
“In the second video you will see that Mrs. March falsely accused me of effectively lowering my shoulder and running into her like a pulling guard like a fullback in football. Then you see her throw up her arms in the air and stumble back two or three steps,” Williams said.
March sent a link to bodycam footage from the law enforcement officer who talked to Williams in the parking lot and spoke to March and some eyewitnesses back inside the center.
“We are a Commonwealth of laws and I’ve turned this over to law enforcement,” March wrote. “There were numerous witnesses to this event. Mr. Williams’ attempt to bully and smear me is disappointing … This is not about a race for political office.
“This is about conducting ourselves with civility, respect and according to the law,” March wrote. It is clear in this body camera footage that Mr. Williams is carefully choosing his words” when stating that he did not act intentionally.
“However, he did not deny the action itself. In addition to his attempts to avoid legal responsibility, he released an incomplete and grainy video in an attempt to conceal his actions,” March wrote. “The truth will prevail.”
Williams said he is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 21, and plans to “vigorously defend” the charge.
Williams’ current district encompasses Patrick County and includes portions of Henry and Franklin counties. March’s current district includes all of Floyd County and parts of Montgomery and Pulaski counties.
They will vie in November 2023 election for the newly drawn 47th House District.
The videos and the bodycam footage are available online at www.henrycountyenterprise.com.