SMITHFIELD, Va. (WAVY) — A Smithfield councilwoman has been charged after police say she stole her opponent’s campaign signs.
In a police report obtained by 10 On Your Side filed earlier this month, Chris Torre, a write-in candidate for the Board of Supervisors District 1 seat, said he had a number of campaign signs disappear.
His campaign staff noticed between six to eight of them went missing, so they placed an Apple AirTag on one of them without Torre’s knowledge. When that sign, which was placed off of Cypress Creek Parkway and Fairway Drive, went missing along with another sign along Church Street, Torre’s staff tracked the AirTag to opponent Renee Rountree’s property.
“I’m sorry it happened and I wish it hadn’t [happened],” Torre told 10 On Your Side.
On Oct. 9, an officer searched Rountree’s home. According to the police report, Rountree said she was out of town and that her son-in-law stole the signs as a prank. She placed them in her crawl space for safekeeping until she could return them. She told Torre after police left that her son-in-law picked up his signs that were in the right of way and she was keeping them safe in her garage. Jesse Hanson, Rountree’s son-in-law told police as much.
The report then states surveillance video obtained from the Isle of Wight Museum shows the signs nowhere near the curb and Hanson picking them up and driving off with them.
Torre told WAVY he wasn’t surprised by Rountree’s actions.
“She shouldn’t have done that. That’s a dirty trick,” Torre said.
Rountree sent the following statement to 10 On Your Side:
“Dear friends, neighbors, and supporters:
Please know that I have fully cooperated with the Smithfield Police Department’s investigation of alleged missing signs of the Chris Torre write-in campaign. I maintain my innocence in this matter, but on advice of my counsel will not make any further statements at this time. While this situation is unfortunate for our community, it does not distract me from my efforts to serve Smithfield and ultimately the citizens of Isle of Wight County. I would like to thank everyone for their continued support as I refute these allegations made against me and my family.”
Hanson was charged with larceny and Rountree with receiving stolen goods. Both crimes could result in up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
“Rules were made to be enforced. All of the rules were made to be enforced,” Torre stated.
He says he decided to press charges because he believes in following the law.