ACCOMAC, Va. - The man accused of setting the majority of the 77 fires in a nearly four-month long string of arsons pleaded not guilty.
Charles Smith, with his hands cuffed was walked into Accomack County circuit court on Monday by several Accomack County sheriff deputies about thirty minutes before his arraignment. Smith and his lawyer Carl Bundick first asked the court to be arraigned on only the first two charges from the April 1st arrest.
Bundick said he hasn't had a sufficient amount of time to review evidence for the remaining 66 charges.
But that was denied by circuit court judge Glen Tyler. However, Tyler allowed Smith's lawyer one month of access to acquire evidence from the commonwealth through a discovery order. By doing this, it pushed back what would have been a November trial of only those two charges to now an unknown date to be tried on all 68 counts.
According to Tyler, the first two charges would have gone to trial first, due to a "speedy trial" code in Virginia legislation.
Code 19.2-243 or the limitation on prosecution of felony due to lapse of time after finding of probable cause; misdemeanors; exceptions states that "...if he is held continuously in custody thereafter, shall be forever discharged from prosecution for such offense if no trial is commenced in the circuit court within five months from the date such probable cause was found by the district court."
Tyler then gave Commonwealth attorney Gary Agar and Bundick until Friday to agree on a start date for the trial. If not, the judge said court will reconvene to figure out a time.
Inside the courtroom, Bundick said he's hopeful to have the trial in January. Smith's trial will be in front of a judge and not a jury of his peers.
Also, Bundick attempted to acquire a second psychiatric evalution, which would look at "mitigating factors" behind Smith's mental state during the period of the arsons. These are the factors which according to Law.com, "do not excuse or justify criminal conduct, but are considered out of mercy or fairness in deciding the degree of the offense the prosecutor charges or influencing reduction of the penalty upon conviction would contribute to the severity of any sentence Smith would receive if convicted."
Tyler said that the evaluation is an "ultimate issue that will impact [sentencing]."
Due to this, the judge postponed this motion until later in the case. Both Agar and Bundick declined our requests for an interview.
While Smith won't likely face trial in November, his fiance will.
According to the court docket, Tonya Bundick will be tried in front of a jury of her peers on November 6th, at least to face one charge of arson of an unoccupied building, and potentially also for the other charge of conspiracy to commit arson.
In August, a judge ruled that the woman could be released from jail if she posts $30,000 secured bond.
But as of Monday afternoon, she has yet to post bail.