Randy Waterman, master and huntsman of the Piedmont Hunt, has spent much of his time maintaining good relations with the Fauquier and Loudoun county landowners who allow the hunt to ride on their property.
Now some members of the hunt are expressing concern that Waterman's indictment last week on felony hit-and-run charges will damage those relations, and some are calling--anonymously--for his resignation or suspension until the case is resolved.
Waterman, 50, is charged with leaving the scene of an April 25 auto accident that seriously injured a prominent Upperville physician, allegedly waiting three hours before reporting his involvement in the accident. The physician, heart surgeon William Katz, 64, owns land in Piedmont's territory.
Bob Slater, a member of the hunt's board of directors, said there should be no talk of resignation "until something's been resolved. All it is right now is hearsay." But another board member, who asked not to be identified, said Waterman should resign "so that fox hunting is not dragged through the mud."
One longtime landowner in the territory, who also asked not to be identified, said that if Waterman is not removed, landowners might "step in and resolve it themselves by taking down their land"--withdrawing permission to hunt.
"Obviously, we're going to have to come to some kind of arrangement," said Dody Vehr, 71, a board member. "We must all sit down and talk about what is going to happen to the hunt."
Waterman, an Upperville resident who is heir to a gravel business fortune, was charged more than three months after the accident in an indictment that was handed down July 26 and sealed until he was served with the papers Friday. Fauquier Commonwealth's Attorney Jonathon S. Lynn said the case "is not being handled in an unusual fashion."
Lynn said that such cases often go directly to a grand jury and that the investigation of the accident by Virginia State Police had not been completed by the time the grand jury met in May. He said the case was submitted to the next grand jury, in July.
Waterman posted a $10,000 personal recognizance bond and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 7. Telephone calls to Waterman and one of his attorneys, Mildred Slater, were not returned. If he is convicted, the charge against him, a Class 6 felony, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
According to Trooper Franz Mahler, Waterman was driving his 1994 green Chevrolet pickup west on Route 50 near Middleburg about 10 p.m. April 25 when a vehicle driven by Katz's wife, Susan Katz, 48, approached from behind. Mahler said Waterman "stopped suddenly" in front of the Katz vehicle.
According to Mahler, Susan Katz attempted to pass Waterman's truck, which swerved into the passing lane and struck her vehicle. William Katz was thrown from the back seat and was flown by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he spent five days in the intensive care unit with severe chest trauma, authorities said.
Susan Katz and her 16-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the passenger seat, received several cuts and bruises, police said. It was not until three hours after the crash that Waterman alerted authorities to his involvement, Mahler said.
Many of the hounds and horses used by the hunt are housed on Waterman's farm on Willisville Road. Hunt board member Vehr said that their ownership was not altogether clear but that the hunt could proceed without Waterman.
William Katz, who divides his time between Upperville and Ohio, said he had given no thought as to whether he would withdraw permission to hunt over his small parcel of land. "Obviously, we have more important things to think about," he said.
Katz's lawyer, W.F. Drewry Gallalee, said William Katz still is still convalescing and unable to return to his medical practice.
CAPTION: Randy Waterman waited three hours to report the accident, police say.