It felt like the air was sucked from a Washington County courtroom Wednesday when an assistant district attorney general announced new charges — solicitation to commit first-degree murder — against a Jonesborough man accused of raping a teenager who came forward after she turned 18.
“Unbelievable,” was the first word out of defense attorney Jonathan Minga’s mouth after Assistant District Attorney General Bill McManus announced to Judge James Nidiffer about the new warrant. Minga tossed his pen onto the table and pushed his chair back while his client, Anthony Padgett, shook his head in disbelief.
According to the warrant served on Padgett, the information that he tried to hire someone to kill the woman and her boyfriend came from a cellmate. The inmate who Padgett allegedly talked to about finding someone to do the job was not identified in court documents. Padgett allegedly offered a down payment of $1,500 cash, a vehicle, several firearms, ammunition, prescription medication and a gun cleaning kit and an additional $8,000 once the job was done.
Prior to the new warrant being filed, Padgett had a preliminary hearing on a violation of an order of protection the young woman obtained in November. He allegedly violated that order by “following” the woman on a public social media photography app called VSMO. The woman testified that she had an account on the site and had even installed the app on Padgett’s cell phone. She also testified that she had fingerprint recognition on Padgett’s iPhone and had previously had access to the device. The woman denied knowing any of Padgett’s passwords for email or other applications.
The woman testified that she deleted her original VSMO photography app and opened a new account. The app does not allow accounts to be private, so anyone can see any photos posted. There is an option to “follow” someone who posts photos, and that’s what Padgett allegedly did that led to the violation. His original charges involving the young woman are statutory rape by an authority figure, solicitation to commit statutory rape and other sex crimes. Those charges had been waived to the grand jury at a hearing late last year.
After Wednesday’s hearing, the violation of the Order of Protection was bound over to a grand jury. The new charges were set for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 14. Padgett had been held on a $100,000 bond on the violation warrant, and Nidiffer added $250,000 to that on the new charges.
After the hearing, Padgett’s family and attorney declined to comment on the newest charges, but said the family had “a good support system.”
The alleged victim also has support through the Family Justice Center and victim witness advocate in the DA’s office.