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A Virginia appeals court has thrown out contempt convictions against two lawyers sentenced to jail for allegedly falsifying a document that referred to a trial judge as “a Nazi.” In sending the case back for retrial, the Court of Appeals of Virginia determined that attorneys Claude Scialdone and Barry Taylor of Scialdone & Taylor in Virginia Beach, Va., were not afforded due process when a lower court judge found them in contempt during a trial in 2006. At the time of the contempt finding, the attorneys were representing a man subsequently convicted of enticing a minor to perform a sex act via the Internet. The three-judge appeals court panel, in a 2-1 decision, also reversed and remanded the contempt conviction of the law firm’s intern, Edward S. Jones, who still works at Scialdone & Taylor and recently graduated from law school. Jones admitted that he had written “West is a Nazi” on the document presented during the 2006 criminal trial of defendant Frankie C. Dulyea before Virginia Circuit Judge Patricia L. West. “I wish this had never taken place,” he said. In a separate matter, following Dulyea’s conviction in the Internet sex case, Dulyea was charged with colluding with an inmate to hire someone to kill West. He was acquitted of those charges last year. During Dulyea’s trial in the Internet case, West concluded that the law firm had altered a document that was purportedly provided by Dulyea, which stated the rules for chatroom use on Yahoo. At the time that she suspected foul play, she sent the jury out of the court room and called Scialdone, Taylor, Jones, Dulyea’s father and one of the law firm’s secretaries to the stand to question them about the document’s authenticity. West determined that the document proffered did not come from Dulyea and did not include the rules for 2005, the year when Dulyea made contact with an undercover officer posing as a minor, but instead were from 2006. She also noted that the screen name used to retrieve the rules from Yahoo was “West is a Nazi.” At the time, Jones admitted that he used the screen name because he was “very upset about some of the rulings” in the case, the April 29 decision stated. 10 days in jail Following Dulyea’s trial, West found the three men in contempt for attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the court. She sentenced them to 10 days in jail and fined them $250 each. The men each served a portion of their sentences before the Virginia Supreme Court granted a stay. The appeals court, in remanding the case, determined that, even though a judge in general can summarily punish attorneys for contempt, West went beyond that authority when, during Dulyea’s trial, she called the attorneys and others to testify about the authenticity of the document. In a dissent to the decision, one of three judges on the appeals panel wrote that the two attorneys and Jones failed to preserve the due process matter for appeal because they did not raise the issue prior to filing their notices of appeal. Neither Scialdone nor Taylor returned a phone call seeking comment.

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