Orange Co. man found guilty in 2019 murder of Stanardsville resident
That’s how Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Edwin Consolvo summarized his closing argument in the trial of Robert Lee Webster, of Orange County.
Apparently, the jury agreed.
In an emotional final day of proceedings, the three-day trial for the murder of Brian Keith Dudley, 37, of Stanardsville, came to an end Thursday, Dec. 16. Counsel for both Webster’s defense and the prosecution pulled out all the stops in their closing arguments, and with the circumstances of the case being what they were, the commonwealth had its work cut out for them.
“Our case is circumstantial,” Consolvo admitted in his closing argument, “But we have everything we need.”
On July 10, 2019, Dudley was found on the side of Dundee Road, slumped over the steering wheel of his running car. Multiple cars passed Dudley and called 911, assuming that there was a medical emergency of some sort. When fire, rescue and law enforcement officers arrived, they discovered Dudley had suffered multiple gunshot wounds from outside the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and it kicked off a lengthy investigation that resulted in Webster’s arrest that October.
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Initial charges against Webster were dismissed following a preliminary trial in December 2019, but new evidence led to his arrest in August 2020, when he was charged with murder; two charges of use of a firearm in commission of a felony; three counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle; robbery; possession with the intent to distribute a schedule I or II narcotic; and possession with the intent to distribute a schedule I or II narcotic while possessing a firearm.
As Consolvo presented his case, he revealed phone records showing that Dudley and Webster had spoken a week before the murder and had remained in contact in the days leading up to Dudley’s death. Those same phone records showed Webster’s phone had pinged off towers in the area July 10, showing his phone moving from Orange to Stanardsville on the day of Dudley’s death and around the estimated time of the murder.
Consolvo didn’t have an eyewitness, nor did he have the “smoking gun.” In lieu of direct evidence that would conclusively prove that Webster fired the gun that killed Dudley, Consolvo presented several days of circumstantial evidence, all of it suggesting Webster was the shooter.
Webster, 43, and who is also known as “Saddiq,” had denied ever knowing Dudley when questioned by police, but later admitting knowing him more and more as they continued to pressure him with evidence, the commonwealth’s attorney said.
Consolvo painted a picture of a drug deal gone bad, suggesting text messages between the two men about “batteries” was actually code for kilos of cocaine and that the meaning of “24 volts” in those messages was further code for the price of the alleged transaction—$24,000.
When the prosecution rested its case, the defense, led by attorney Paul Galanides, immediately motioned for the dismissal of all charges, arguing that the burden of proof had not been met on any of them.
At that point in the trial, Judge Claude V. Worrell had to determine whether or not the commonwealth had presented enough circumstantial evidence, and if that evidence was sufficient in both quantity and quality, to continue.
Thursday morning, Dec. 16 began with Judge Worrell’s ruling, and some small victories for Webster’s defense team.
“I am dismissing the charge of robbery with a gun, possession of a schedule I or II with intent to distribute, and possession and distribution with a firearm,” Judge Worrell said in his ruling. “That leaves the murder charge, malicious or unlawful shooting into a vehicle and use of a firearm [in the commission of a felony].”
After his ruling, Judge Worrell offered the floor to the defense to present its case. As he later clarified in his closing argument, Galanides’ entire defense was predicated on the fact that the burden of proof had not been met by the commonwealth.
With nothing offered from Webster’s defense, Judge Worrell moved proceedings to closing arguments.
As Consolvo went through the case he constructed against Webster, he began with pictures of Dudley and his son, who, regardless of the outcome of the trial, would still grow up without his father. Friends and family of the victim held one another and openly wept as Consolvo recounted the events surrounding Dudley’s murder. The uniformed bailiffs began passing out boxes of tissues and sympathetic looks, but Consolvo didn’t break stride.
“Webster started texting and calling Dudley on July 3,” Consolvo said. “He continued to call him throughout the next week. On July 10, he called him at 12:49 in the afternoon. They talked for just under two minutes. Another call at 1 p.m., at 3:21 p.m., then finally, at 4:04 p.m., he calls Brian Dudley and they talk for nine minutes. Then, after that, he never calls him or texts him again. Of all the people [listed in Dudley’s cell phone records], he’s the only one who stops calling him a little after four o’clock. Why? Because he had just killed him.
“This was premeditated murder. Period,” Consolvo continued. “He knew the whole time what he was coming up here to do. He met Brian Dudley, he got the drugs, and when Brian Dudley asks ‘where’s the money?’ Bang, bang, bang,” Consolvo suggested, pantomiming his remarks with finger guns.
After Consolvo’s summation, it was time for Galanides to deliver the closing argument for the defense, and it was clear from the beginning that he had a different approach.
Galanides walked calmly before the gallery, where the jurors were seated due to courthouse COVID-19 precautions, and placed a piece of paper up on a glass barrier around the witness stand, making an improvised easel.
“I want to say first that I have nothing but respect for law enforcement. They have a tough job,” he said, calmly. His voice was thoughtful; his words were precise. Galanides wordlessly drew a rectangle and a circle. “But they’re trying to make a square peg fit in a circular hole, here. That’s why this isn’t making sense. Because they want so badly to make it work, and it’s never going to. Square peg, round hole.
Galanides spent almost an hour talking to the jury, circling back to his analogy after every point he made.
“There is no evidence to support any of it,” he said. “Personally, I’ve never seen the commonwealth work so hard to besmirch the name of a dead man. Is there any evidence that Dudley was a drug dealer? Were any drugs found? Was any money found? I mean, look at where it took place; no one in their right mind is going to set up a drug deal in the middle of the road. There’s blind curves and houses all over the place... they’re just trying to make that peg fit because it’s all they have.” Galanides argued.
Consolvo’s rebuttal to Galanides’ summation was brief, but emphatic, taking aim especially at Galanides’ perceived naïveté regarding drug deals and where clandestine meetings can take place.
“All of this,” he said, pointing at Galanides’ picture of the rectangle and the circle, “Is meaningless.”
When both attorneys had finished, Judge Worrell began reading the jury instructions, and the jury, comprised of eight men and four women, was dispatched to the jury room for deliberations at approximately 12:40 p.m., returning at 4:30 p.m., having deliberated for just less than four hours. Webster was found guilty of second-degree murder and the associated gun-related charges. He will return to court for sentencing on March 22, 2022.