COURT HOUSE – Four family members of the defendant in an attempted murder case were arrested for witness tampering, accused by the state of repeatedly contacting the complaining witness in the underlying case, which is domestic in nature.
The family members are accused of attempting to get the victim to minimize her injuries and recant her account of the alleged abuse that resulted in the attempted murder and other charges against the family member of the new defendants.
The sister, mother, grandmother, and uncle of John P. Linnington were arrested last week and charged with the third-degree offense, in addition to a conspiracy count. John Linnington was also charged, accused of orchestrating some of the contact from behind bars.
John Linnington’s mother, Marianne Linnington, and his grandmother, Marie J. Britton, were released April 28, following a hearing in front of Judge Billie Moore, a court official said.
John Linnington’s sister, Christa Linnington, was released May 1, but a detention hearing scheduled May 1 for the uncle, James J. Linnington, was postponed at the request of prosecutors, who indicated they would be filing more charges against the uncle.
The state said that over the course of 11 months, since last May, the four “repeatedly contacted” the victim, identified only as G.S., via phone calls, text messages, social media, and in-person meetings on John Linnington’s behalf. The state said it has recorded conversations with evidence of the witness tampering.
In April 2022, John Linnington was charged with attempted murder, unlawful use of a weapon, aggravated assault and other charges related to an alleged brutal act of domestic violence committed against G.S.
According to the affidavit of probable cause in the underlying case, John Linnington was picked up by the complaining witness from a bar and began to attack her in the vehicle. The altercation allegedly continued into a Cape May Point residence, where John Linnington allegedly punched G.S. with his fists, kicked and bit her in the stomach while knowing she was six months pregnant, and strangled her to the point she feared for her life and may have gone unconscious. Then, John Linnington allegedly began to beat her with a metal curtain rod until she was able to escape out a window.
John Linnington, 31, remains in jail for that assault.
State v. Christa Linnington
Christa Linnington was released on level two monitoring May 1, with the state’s consent; however, there was some disagreement between the state and defense counsel over whether she would be able to contact other family members also charged with witness tampering while their cases are pending.
The state sought an order prohibiting her from contacting the victim, her brother, or her other co-defendants in the tampering case.
Christa Linnington is getting married May 13, her lawyer said, and a no-contact order, prohibiting her from any communication with her co-defendants – who include her mother, grandmother, and uncle – poses a problem for the upcoming wedding day.
“My understanding is that they’re all coming to the wedding and this is, of course, a momentous family occasion,” John Tumelty, her lawyer, told the court.
Additionally, Linnington works in a family-owned bakery in Wildwood Crest and the no-contact order poses problems there, as well, Tumelty said.
“She also intends to work for the family bakery this summer. The season’s almost here,” Tumelty said. “The no-contact clause does seem a little bit overkill on the state’s part.”
Tumelty argued the time Christa Linnington spent in jail since her arrest April 25 served as a tough, but valuable lesson and that there would be absolutely no contact made with the complaining witness in her brother’s case moving forward.
“To prevent her from having contact with her mother, her grandmother, and her uncle, especially in light of the wedding coming up, would seem a little bit unnecessary in this situation. They’re all in the same boat. They know as a family they cannot have any further contact with the victim,” Tumelty argued.
However, the state argued the no-contact order was necessary since the original no contact order issued to her brother, the defendant in the domestic violence case, was not respected by the family, nor was a second no-contact order issued later by a judge.
“This wedding is something that has been in the works, and part of her tampering with this witness was in an effort to get her brother released in time to be at her wedding,” Assistant Prosecutor Bryna Batten, arguing on behalf of the state, told the judge.
“I find it a little disingenuous and, quite frankly, entitled and myopic of this defendant to now come before the court and say, ‘I’m getting married in two weeks. I need to have contact with my co-defendants.’ The reality of the situation is that wedding was planned. You engaged in this behavior on purpose, knowingly. You knew you weren’t supposed to do it. You did it anyway. You did it repeatedly. All in an effort, again, for this wedding and for her brother to be released from jail,” Batten added.
Batten also took issue with Tumelty’s characterization of his client having no prior contacts with the law. Batten said Christa Linnington was indicted on an assault by auto charge in 2015, but pleaded down to a DUI.
Ultimately, the judge sided with prosecutors and ordered Christa Linnington to have no contact with her co-defendants. He suggested the court would be amenable to a hearing before the wedding if the state and defense could agree on some terms to perhaps relax the order for the wedding day.
“I understand that complicates what is otherwise supposed to be a happy and monumental day in this particular defendant’s life,” Gibson said from the bench. “Weighing that against the rights and the protection of this particular victim, the court puts more emphasis on the protection of the victim.”
While out on level two release, Christa Linnington must check in with pretrial services once a month in person and once a month by phone and abide by other standard release conditions.
She works as an insurance agent and is listed as the chairwoman of the Cape May County Young Republicans and 2nd vice president of the Lower Township Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on both organizations’ websites.
State v. James Linnington
James J. Linnington had his detention hearing postponed, with the state seeking an additional three days to gather evidence. The matter was relisted for May 3, though it is possible it may again be pushed to May 5.
Assistant Prosecutor Bryna Batten, arguing the case for the state, said she anticipates more charges being filed against James Linnington.
“Since this defendant has been detained, we have had other witnesses come forward and provide new information that will result in more charges for this defendant,” Batten told the judge.
James Linnington’s lawyer, Joseph Rodgers, objected to the request for more time and said his client should be released that day.
“The state has third-degree charges,” Rodgers argued. “I indicated my client has no record. He has a business he has to run right now, with 40 employees there. There’s absolutely no reason to delay this case.”
Gibson said the three-day adjournment is “essentially built into the rule,” but also felt there may be no point in proceeding if more charges will soon be filed.
“If I were to allow the matter to proceed today, my concern is that, based on what Ms. Batten has said, in terms of new charges, that would likely put Mr. Linnington in a position where he’s again arrested and again becomes the subject of a second detention hearing and is back in the county jail awaiting that hearing, as opposed to having it occur all at once,” said the judge.
The matter was relisted for May 3, but Batten said she wasn’t certain she would be ready to proceed then and might ask for the full three days to which she is entitled.
To reach the reporter, Shay Roddy, email email@example.com or call 609-886-8600, ext. 142.