by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
LANCASTER—The family of a man who died two years ago following a boating accident on Carter Creek is speaking out against statements made recently by Lancaster County Commonwealth’s attorney Jan Smith.
Graham McCormick, 31, of Georgia and formerly of Richmond, drowned in August 2017 as a result of trauma sustained in a boating accident. His friend, John Randolph “Rand” Hooper, 33, of Richmond has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and failure to render aid in the boating crash.
McCormick was visiting Hooper and other friends at Hooper’s parents’ home in Irvington on August 10, 2017. Following dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant and more drinks at the house, McCormick and Hooper took the family’s Boston Whaler out for a late-night ride on Carter Creek. McCormick’s body was found the next morning over a mile away from the Hooper home.
The legal proceedings surrounding the case have been fraught with controversy since and have drawn statewide attention.
McCormick’s parents, J. Burke McCormick and Sallie T. Graham, filed a civil suit against Hooper in November 2017 and five months later were awarded $4 million in a settlement.
Hooper was indicted on two felonies in July 2018 and nearly a year later, in June 2019, appeared before Lancaster Circuit Court Judge R. Michael McKenney to enter a plea agreement. Judge McKenney stunned the packed courtroom by recusing himself after reading a witness impact statement which alleged he had prior knowledge of the agreement and had even encouraged it.
Judge Herbert Hewitt was appointed to take over the case and in July dismissed a motion by the McCormick family asking to have Smith disqualified as the prosecutor for a number of reasons including the appearance of impropriety and incompetence.
Two weeks ago, Judge Hewitt deferred ruling on a guilty plea agreement entered by Hooper’s attorneys and Smith pending another hearing on evidence in the case and the completion of a pre-sentencing report. The McCormick family has expressed concern the plea agreement, which has Hooper serving one year with 14 suspended, would not adequately punish him.
Following the hearing on August 19, Smith released a statement to the Rappahannock Record, saying “the family informed me that the first objective in this case was to secure two felony convictions. That has been done.”
McCormick’s brother, Gordon McCormick, contacted the paper in follow-up to Smith’s comments.
“It was never our family’s intent to make a public statement and we preferred to allow the judicial process to run its course. However, in light of the statement recently issued by Commonwealth’s attorney Jan Smith, where facts were misrepresented and distorted in a clear attempt to manipulate public opinion, we felt an obligation to correct the record,” said Gordon McCormick.
He said Smith’s statement that…