A Norfolk jury on Wednesday acquitted a man of the most serious charges he faced in the 2011 slaying of Old Dominion University student Christopher Cummings but found him guilty of lesser counts.
The panel deliberated for 12 hours before announcing it had found Rashad Dooley guilty of three of 13 charges: conspiracy to commit murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit burglary. It acquitted him of first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, malicious wounding, burglary and a half-dozen weapons charges
The split verdict includes the only convictions to date in the case. Four men were charged in the killing, but two others had charges dismissed and a third case ended in a mistrial.
Each charge for which Dooley was found guilty carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, meaning he could get up to 30 years in prison when he’s sentenced in December.
Dooley, 29, was not in court when the verdict was announced. He was granted bond this summer after spending nearly a year in jail, and left the courthouse sometime Wednesday afternoon.
Defense attorney Eric Korslund told Circuit Judge Michelle Atkins he got a text from Dooley saying he “needed to pick up his daughter” and asked Korslund to “get the verdict for me.” Atkins immediately issued an arrest warrant for him.
“I’d characterize the verdict as bittersweet,” Korslund said afterward. “Certainly we’re pleased he beat the most serious charges but it’s very disappointing that he was found guilty of the other three.”
Cummings’ father, James, called the verdict a disappointment and a relief.
“I was hoping there would have been more convictions,” he said. “But at least it wasn’t another hung jury.”
All four defendants charged in the killing are longtime friends who grew up together in Newport News. Prosecutors have alleged they went to Cummings’ off-campus house before dawn on June 10, 2011, to rob the student of the marijuana he’d been dealing out of it. Cummings — a nephew of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in 2019 — was shot multiple times and died at the scene. His roommate was critically injured.
The case remained cold until last year, when police announced they’d charged the four men. All were ordered held without bond until trial.
But earlier this year, two of the men — Ahmad Watson and Kwuame Edwards — had all charges against them dismissed after their attorneys argued prosecutors had mishandled their cases. The charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning prosecutors can’t seek to bring them back.
Javon Doyle, the other remaining defendant, went to trial in August but his case ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to agree on a verdict. Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi has said his office plans to retry Doyle, but no trial date had been set.
The evidence in Doyle and Dooley’s trials relied heavily on testimony from inmates who claimed the men had confessed to taking part in the attempted robbery. Prosecutors, however, do not believe either of them was the gunman.
Some of the other testimony against Dooley centered around pings from his cell phone at towers in Newport News about an hour before and after the shooting that showed he was communicating with some of the other defendants.
Attorneys for Doyle and Dooley said both were offered immunity from prosecution if they agreed to provide evidence against their co-defendants. Both men refused, they said, saying they were not there and therefore had no information to provide.
“He (Dooley) has maintained his innocence from day one,” Korslund said.
Jane Harper, email@example.com