In Va. court, Salahis agree to settle debt with expensive watch
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the alleged White House gate-crashers, brought the media circus to Front Royal, Va., on Friday morning.
The Salahis showed up at the Warren County Courthouse and Tareq left three hours later without his watch.
Last December, a judge ordered the couple to pay their onetime landscaper $925 for money they owed him, $900 in attorney's fees, $53 in court costs, plus 6 percent interest -- about $2,000. The Salahis never paid. So back they had to come to the courthouse, about seven miles from their home on the edge of town, compelled to answer questions under oath from the landscaper's lawyer about their finances.
Camped outside was a media circus of 20 reporters and photographers, so the pair shot quickly and silently into the building at 8:30 a.m., 30 minutes before they were scheduled to appear in the district court's single courtroom. He wore a too-tight jacket over a black shirt and a thin blue tie with crossed polo sticks on it; she wore a khaki coat and tan pantsuit.
David Silek, a 37-year-old Manassas lawyer who has represented the Salahis on a range of cases since 2002, initially declined to tell reporters even whether he represented the couple. "Apparently you don't understand English because I said, 'No comment,' " he said, brushing past reporters.
In the courtroom, a sheriff's deputy tried to make small talk with the Salahis while they waited. He talked about old headmasters at the Randolph-Macon Academy, from which Tareq Salahi graduated in 1987. Then the officer mentioned his own work. "You have good days and bad," he said.
"Trust me, we know," said Tareq Salahi, laughing a little at his own quip before becoming silent again.
A local reporter interrupted the solitude: "Is it nice to have some peace and quiet?"
Tareq Salahi stared ahead, lifted his left arm and pointed at his counsel.
"He has no comment," Silek said.
At 9:01 a.m., with Judge W. Dale Houff presiding, the couple were sworn in. J. Daniel Pond III, the lawyer for landscaper Mike E. Dunbar, placed the Salahis in two witness rooms and asked them individually about their ability to pay. Paper had been placed in the windows to prevent outsiders from peering inside.
Under the law, the landscaper could demand almost whatever valuables the Salahis had on them for the unpaid work. The couple offered a few payment plans, Dunbar said.