Mizelle strikes deal on charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Prominent Suffolk attorney Johnnie E. Mizelle struck a plea agreement on an assault charge in Suffolk Circuit Court on Monday.

The former Suffolk mayor entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. As part of the deal, proscutors dropped a solicitation for prostitution charge n also a misdemeanor nfiled against him.

Mizelle, 58, was arrested at his West Washington Street law office in January after a 43-year-old female client alleged that he groped her. She also charged that Mizelle suggested she perform sexual favors to pay off her legal bill.

Email newsletter signup

Mizelle is not admitting guilt by taking an Alford, said Mizelle's lawyer, Andrew Sacks of Norfolk.

Rather, he is admitting that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could convince a judge or jury to find him guilty, Sacks said. Legally, upon receiving an Alford from a defendant, the court may immediately pronounce the defendant guilty and impose sentencing.

Retired Judge Wiley R. Wright Jr., who was appointed by the state Supreme Court to hear the case, gave Mizelle a 12-month suspended sentence on the assault and battery charge. He also ordered him to have no contact with the victim.

Mizelle is maintaining his innocence against both charges, Sacks said.

"But it made sense to end the case now so Johnnie could get on with his professional and personal life," said Sacks. "…He denies accusations that he kissed or touched her in a sexual manner."

However, Sacks said, he did admit to hugging her.

"He is a demonstrative person and a supportive individual," said Sacks. "His client may have misperceived the action."

Prosecutor Laurel Uhlar, an assistant commonwealth's attorney in Newport News, said both she and her client are satisfied with the outcome.

"We both believe it's fair and down the middle," she said. "I don't think we will see this problem again."

The Virginia State Bar will be investigating Mizelle's conviction, Uhlar said. Efforts to reach a spokesperson from the Richmond-based organization were unsuccessful.

Mizelle did not return phone calls.