Peacemakers founder alleges 'fishing expedition' as trial date delayed

Shawn Hunter maintains innocence, announces City Council run

ROANOKE, Va. – There’s another delay Tuesday in the trial for the former president of the Roanoke Peacemakers. A judge set a new date, Jan. 29, after the prosecution filed two new charges against Shawn Hunter.

All three charges apply to the same nude picture for which Hunter is facing accusations for sending to a Roanoke woman in October.

The defense says it learned of the new charges Monday. One of them is a Class I misdemeanor, which could include jail time. It's for taking an obscene picture. The second is a lower charge, a Class III misdemeanor, for distribution of the photo.

Both charges were added to the original misdemeanor harassment charge.

Hunter spoke to the media Tuesday to say he’s frustrated that police and the commonwealth’s attorney are pursuing the charges.

"The only thing we're supposed to be determining is that Shawn Hunter sent a picture to an individual. She got the picture. She pressed charges. The issue in court is was that picture sent intentionally or not intentionally? That's all that this case is supposed to be about," he said outside the courthouse. "But they're on a fishing expedition and wasting taxpayer money with all of this stuff right here."

Hunter said the city, including police and City Council members, have withdrawn their support of him since the allegations surfaced.

He reiterated Tuesday that he accidentally texted the picture in question to a Roanoke woman, saying he meant to send it to someone else, a woman who he says would have consented to receiving it.

Hunter was convicted of aggravated sexual battery involving a minor in 1987. He said his criminal past, including registering as a sex offender, is contributing to the efforts to find him guilty in this case.

"The reason why this case is the way that it is is because of my background. They've been biased. They're trying to connect the two," he said.

Hunter again stated his intention to run for City Council. He said he intends to run in May to stand up for the people of Northwest Roanoke and fight to combat crime in that area.

He previously told 10 News in September that he had been planning to run. He said Tuesday that he'll run regardless of the outcome of the trial.

Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell declined to comment on-camera, saying the office doesn’t comment on pending cases, and doesn’t try cases in the press.

Shawn Hunter is the founder of the Peacemakers, a group of volunteers who patrol high-crime areas in Roanoke to try to prevent violence and promote peacefully resolving disputes. The nonprofit has gotten support from corporate donors, City Council members, police and Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea.

As 10 News previously reported, Hunter stepped down from his position with the Peacemakers after the charges against him were released.

In a previous court date on Nov. 15, a judge granted a request to delay the trial because the prosecution said it wanted more time to go through evidence and find witnesses.