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Man charged with Rivanna Trail attacks claims innocence

“I’m 100% innocent,” proclaimed the Charlottesville man accused of attacking two women on the Rivanna River Trail after his first appearance in court Tuesday morning.

Speaking outside the courthouse after a brief hearing in Charlottesville General District Court, 37-year-old technology worker Patrick McNamara said his life has been turned upside down by the accusation that he assaulted two women on the popular path that winds along the Rivanna River.

“I’ve been absolutely blindsided,” said McNamara. “This has been an incredible five days of my life.”

He said he has an array of evidence that can show that he’s innocent of the two Jan. 12 attacks.

“I was working all day,” he told The Daily Progress. “I have alibis.”

He said that police said he fit the description of the man who allegedly grabbed two women: tall, clean-shaven and wearing headphones.

McNamara was arrested six days after the two alleged assaults, only one of which is listed in court papers. He currently faces a single misdemeanor count for the assault and battery of a woman named in his arrest warrant only as J.L., an unusual abbreviation outside of sex crime cases. A conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor, such as this one, can bring a jail term of up to 12 months.

A Charlottesville police statement from the day of the alleged attacks indicates that there was no physical injury, and in court Tuesday, the prosecutor provided no specifics of the alleged batteries.

The judge, Andrew Sneathern, gave McNamara two weeks to hire a lawyer and set the next hearing for Feb. 6.

McNamara said he probably erred by agreeing to a police interview that wasn’t immediately clear to him was a part of a criminal investigation and which suddenly veered toward his relationship with his fiancée, who he said lives with him and came to court with him Tuesday.

“They actually asked me about our relationship, and I said, ‘What is this about?’” McNamara said. “I probably shouldn’t have talked to them.”

Police Chief Michael Kochis referred questions from The Daily Progress to police Capt. Tony Newberry, who referred questions to police spokesman Kyle Ervin, who did not answer.

Asked why he might have been targeted as the suspect, McNamara, who lives near the trail, concedes he frequently walks the trail.

“I do walk the Rivanna Trail often,” said McNamara, “but not on that day and not on the day before or the day after.”

He noted that Charlottesville police, who issued two statements about the case, described the suspect in the first as wearing a puffy, brown jacket. He said that a search warrant, which was served at his home while he was getting interrogated at the police station, sought a puffy, white jacket. However, McNamara said that his home held neither, because he doesn’t own a winter coat.

“He doesn’t own a jacket,” said his fiancée, Michelle, who asked that her full name not be printed for publication.

McNamara contends that stronger evidence of his innocence is the list of names he supplied police attesting to his whereabouts the day of the alleged attacks. Working remotely for a Boston-based technology firm, he said he was participating in video conferences with colleagues much of that day, including at the times of both attacks — even serving as the meeting host during one alleged assault.

“I was the one running that presentation,” said McNamara. “There were at least seven people on camera.”

Additionally, McNamara said he has more evidence, and it’s already in the hands of the police because they have seized his phone.

“I have enabled locations,” he said. “My phone will show that I was never on the Rivanna Trail that day.”

Released on $5,000 unsecured bail, McNamara has his freedom, but already the arrest has begun to take its toll.

“I’ve had to take time off work until this is resolved,” he said.

McNamara said he hasn’t broken the law since he did some underage drinking in college.

“I’ve never been charged with a crime before in my life,” he said. “I have a completely clean record.”

Having moved to Charlottesville roughly a year and half ago from Boston, McNamara said he has enjoyed making friends and getting to know the city. But not this way.

“I was at Planet Fitness yesterday morning,” he said, “and I saw myself on television.”


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