Thursday, July 18, 2024

Man accused of sex trafficking, motel standoff not competent to stand trial

Evan Anthony Cole, 29 (WYDaily/Courtesy of VPRJ)
Evan Anthony Cole, 29 (WYDaily/Courtesy of VPRJ)

A psychologist has determined a man allegedly involved in an armed standoff at the Travelodge on Bypass Road in York County in July is not competent to stand trial.

Evan Anthony Cole was scheduled for a hearing in the York-Poquoson General District Court Tuesday for a progress review in his case after a Petersburg psychologist evaluated the 29-year-old’s competency to stand trial.

Cole is charged with two felony counts of sex trafficking, two felony counts of abduction, two felony counts of robbery, one felony count of strangulation, and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery in connection with the standoff July 11.

He is also charged with sex trafficking in Williamsburg after two women reported he allegedly beat and choked them July 5 at a local hotel.

When asked about the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing when Cole was found incompetent to stand trial — and why psychologists determined Cole was not competent — Commonwealth’s Attorney Benjamin Hahn emailed two Virginia Code sections to a WYDaily reporter about how competency is evaluated as well as the procedure to restore a defendant to competency.

On Wednesday, a general district court clerk said a copy of the court order for Cole’s treatment was not available because it had not yet been signed by a judge.

When a defendant is found incompetent, the court will order they receive treatment to restore their competency so the case can move forward, according to the Virginia Code.

RELATED STORY: Court docs: Man accused of sex trafficking carries history of gang involvement, family abuse

Federal courts

Email correspondence in Cole’s case file between prosecutors and court clerks indicate federal prosecutors voiced an interest in trying the Williamsburg and York County charges together in federal court.

The correspondence came as prosecutors and clerks worked to schedule a competency evaluation for Cole and find a psychologist close enough to do the test.

An email on Aug. 7 says Cole was at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail for a time before being moved to the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin, Virginia.

For a time, York County prosecutors delayed a request for a psychological evaluation because federal prosecutors suggested they may pursue the charges themselves, according to an Aug. 8 court clerk email.

Another email Aug. 16 from a court clerk indicated Hahn directed the clerks Aug. 14 to arrange an evaluation anyway, as he had not heard back from federal prosecutors.

The competency evaluation was ordered Aug. 30 and tested for both competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense. 

As of Wednesday, federal court records did not show any cases or charges against Cole.

Online court records were not updated as of Wednesday to reflect any future hearings scheduled for Cole’s case in the York-Poquoson General District Court.

Williamsburg case

The charges against Cole for alleged sex trafficking in Williamsburg are still active in the Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.

Williamsburg Police believe he forced two women into prostitution and kept them at the Best Western in the 300 block of York Street.

Police responded to the hotel July 5 for a “suspicious incident,” during which the women alleged Cole choked, assaulted and robbed them. 

He is charged with two felony counts of abduction, two felony counts of robbery, one felony count of strangulation, and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.

His case is scheduled for a hearing in the Williamsburg court at 1 p.m. Oct. 24.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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