Details emerge about criminal case against Virginia Beach GOP chairwoman (2024)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The chairwoman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach was indicted this week on a felony charge of intercepting wire communications.

Laura K. Hughes, an attorney and former Virginia Beach School Board member, was indicted Monday by a Virginia Beach grand jury, according to online court records. The crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

A court document filed in the case says the charges stem from an incident in February, but did not provide any details.

However, a Republican Party member who said he was there during the alleged offense, recounted the incident. He described an interaction at the party’s office in February in which Hughes was inquiring about whether anyone else had filed to run for chair and a phone conversation was overheard. Hughes described that February interaction in a public Facebook post, though no mention was made in her video of any recording of the conversation.

Hughes was elected chair in March. Gary Byler, her attorney, provided a statement to The Virginian-Pilot in which he denied she had done anything wrong, and questioned the motives of those seeking to prosecute her.

“The allegation that Ms. Hughes recorded an openly audible conversation in GOP Party headquarters with her cell phone is an absurd basis for a felony prosecution,” the statement said. “There is no allegation that any recording was surreptitious or done without the knowledge of those on an open speaker phone call. Neither is there any allegation that the alleged recording was shared or even played.”

The Virginia law under which Hughes was charged states it is illegal for any person who is not a party to a communication to intentionally intercept, disclose, or use that communication without the consent of at least one involved party. The law also states it’s illegal to use any wired or wireless device to intercept such a communication.

In the Facebook video recorded Feb. 21, Hughes says she wanted to let people know about the filing process to run for chair. The deadline to file paperwork and a $500 check was 5 p.m. Feb. 20. She handed hers to Carol Hickman, at the party’s office, and Hickman logged it and put it in the safe, Hughes said in the video.

She goes on to say that she went back to the party’s office with a few other people the following day and asked to see who else had filed.

“I wanted verification of filing to see if anyone else who filed did file timely,” she said in the video.

Hughes said Hickman then went into the bathroom to have a private call with Bill Curtis, the former party chair.

“She had him on speaker phone, so it could be clearly heard,” Hughes said.

The person on the phone said he had handed his paperwork to another person who works in the office, Hughes said. She then called that person who said Curtis’ paperwork was at the office. Hughes asked to see it again but was not allowed.

Hughes said she was concerned about election integrity.

Hughes’ term as chair of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach is from 2024-26, according to the organization’s website. She served on the Virginia Beach School Board from 2018-22.

Curtis, who served as party chair before Hughes took over, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Jimmy Frost, a member of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, corroborated the account given by Hughes in the video recording. He said he was one of the people with Hughes who went to headquarters to find out if Curtis or anyone else had filed in a timely manner in the chair’s race.

“They couldn’t really seem to produce any documentation that he had,” Frost said.

Hickman called Curtis and put him on speaker phone while they were in the office, Frost said.

“It’s dubious that there was a violation of anybody’s privacy,” he said, adding he could hear Curtis’ voice on the phone.

Frost believes Hughes is being targeted by people who wanted Curtis to be the chair.

“If Laura Hughes hadn’t won that election this would have never happened,” said Frost. “This is basically the party establishment having a tantrum because they didn’t get the outcome they wanted.”

Northampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Thornton on Thursday confirmed that his office was asked to handle the case after Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle recused himself. Stolle is a longtime member of the local Republican Party.

Thornton said he will prosecute the case, but declined to provide any other information. A spokesperson for the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said she could not discuss the case.

Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125,

Jane Harper,

Details emerge about criminal case against Virginia Beach GOP chairwoman (2024)


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