Controversial topics about elected officials are openly discussed by the electorate, yet journalists seem to look the other way when it raises a critical question. Have our newspapers become complicit as a silent partner to malfeasance or is there an unwritten rule that thou shall not report on the appearance of impropriety of our elected officials?
One year ago a minor was shot by a policeman in Purcellville. The incident was memorialized with a heartfelt ceremony this past weekend by hundreds of neighbors and fellow students of the slain boy. No press attended. In this case the commonwealth’s attorney summarily concluded that the shooting was justified without providing any details about whether the actions of the cop differed from standard police practices. There was no acknowledgement of the ignored dispatcher orders to set up a perimeter, that two officers were nearby to help, attempts to de-escalate ignored, proximity management ignored, tactical withdrawal options ignored. Did any reporters even ask if there was a conflict between an attorney working for the town who also happened to be the spouse of that same commonwealth’s attorney?
Now fast forward to April 27, when that same commonwealth’s attorney was outed by the Loudoun Sheriff for interfering in an embezzlement investigation of a Loudoun cop in charge of holding asset forfeiture funds. These accusations come directly from both an electronic and hard copy published document released by Sheriff [Mike] Chapman, yet local newspapers choose not to cover it.
Here we have two examples of the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney cursorily siding with police under two different yet serious issues. The shooting of a minor and the embezzlement of over $200,000 seem to both warrant some investigatory effort by journalists but all remained silent. Why would the commonwealth’s attorney seem to protect an accused embezzling cop? Why did he choose not to charge the cop? Shouldn’t a commonwealth’s attorney be an independent reviewer of police abuses or in this case is there an agenda/conflict preventing this commonwealth’s attorney from functioning as required by the community who elected him?
Here is the exact April 27 released statement from the sheriff.
“Fiction: Mr. Plowman attributes the asset forfeiture embezzlement scandal to the LCSO under my watch.
Fact: Local Asset Forfeitures are a joint process between the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the LCSO. Prior to 2008, it had a separation of duties in which the Treasurer’s Office held monies seized.
In 2008, under Sheriff Simpson and Mr. Plowman, that process was changed. The county treasurer was removed from oversight and a single detective was designated to process all seizures and deposit all money. This eliminated checks and balances – enabling the opportunity for corruption. “ From 2008 on, monies were stolen regularly from the account totaling over $230,000. The vast majority occurring while Mr. Plowman and Sheriff Simpson were in office and while Mr. Plowman had an active role in asset forfeitures. This occurred before I took office and initiated a management action that ultimately uncovered it. In reviewing numerous unprocessed seized assets (to include many vehicles that had remained dormant for years), I asked (in January 2014) that our detectives clear the backlog. Months before the theft was disclosed, Mr. Plowman specifically asked that I NOT move the asset forfeiture detective now under investigation, as he was an indispensable part of the asset forfeiture process. In late October 2014, I was notified by our budget manager that $34,000 had been stolen from the account by this detective after he had been given a transfer notice. I immediately notified the Virginia State Police (VSP) and asked them to conduct an independent investigation. The VSP was later joined by the FBI. I also asked my budget manager if she was aware of any other stolen money. She advised that in September 2014, the detective responsible for making deposits made a deposit of $16,000 only after a notice to return these funds to the defendant was delivered. The money should have been deposited years earlier. She also she reported it to her boss, Major [Eric] Noble, as well as to a supervisory detective. Mr. Noble denied hearing about this, and the supervisory detective never reported it up the chain of command. Both were disciplined for not properly documenting and reporting the incident.”
In an Aug. 6, 2014, article in the Times-Mirror, Sheriff Mike Chapman says the embezzlement of asset forfeitures was uncovered by detectives in October 2013 when he began restructuring the Special Investigations Section. Chapman said prior to the embezzlement, one deputy was in charge of the seized money. That deputy, in turn, was supposed to notify the sheriff’s office’s financial department and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice of the deposit. Chapman said the prior administration never changed this procedure, despite warnings from the state attorney general and County Treasurer Roger Zurn that it opened the office up for embezzlement.
Candidate for Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney
My family is on the way home from two days of the Army’s Basic Combat Training Graduation at Ft. Jackson. (Why is I-95 is so determinedly dark in the Carolinas, we wonder?)
“Well, we failed to hold back the tears in our eyes as we rolled out the car,” my sister announces, but I think my son, Jay (private first class) understood for the first time, what “family” really means. Tomorrow at 0:800 he ships out to Ft. Sills, Okla. to train in field artillery, but for the last two days, he has shown us, enlightened us, and ― along with his buddies ― made us laugh with funny stories about bunking down with 60 boys for 10 long weeks in the well-integrated Delta Battalion of Company G.
All the drill sargent stories you hear are true; they grind their charges into the ground - especially the college boys, whom many of them intensely resent, perhaps for the good fortune of an advanced education but which, ironically, they have put aside in a fervent patriotic fever. Still, they are “college boys” and “need” to be kicked around more than the others. But somehow, by the grace of God, there is the one NCO they all liked ― a lot.
The one who encouraged them to better themselves in every way they knew how ― or didn’t know how which I suspect was the mightier challenge. When all was said and done wrong and their butts had been whipped and the toilets had been scrubbed again and again, they fell into bed at night for no other reason than they just couldn’t stand upright anymore.
Tonight, as we were leaving, I looked up at him to kiss him goodbye. I noticed for the first time how his brow is arched like mine. The line of his cheek high and defining . . . just like mine. It hits you like a wave ― this fierceness ― and then you unclasp your arms and you simply let him go. I saw it again and again in the eyes of dozens of other newly minted military mothers looking at their sons just as I had. You look through them really. You wonder why they are the 1 percent of the total population of young men and women in this country who sign up for a 50-50, all-American shot at dying. You wonder at this place, in this moment, if you have ever loved your son more or ever felt the fluid movement of his power coursing through your veins as you do right now.
Because this is the trade-off of respecting the decision he has made and more than that, respecting the man he is becoming. And the United States soldier he is now.
I’m fairly certain that it’s not news that Virginia prisons are seriously overcrowded and continue to face severe budget shortages. What most people probably do not know, however, is that while our prisons suffer under these conditions, they also continue to pay for the incarceration of foreign, non-U.S. citizen prisoners.
Maybe I missed a memo somewhere indicating that Virginia had started a financial aid program helping prisons in foreign countries by housing their inmates for them. Which then begs the question: What the heck are we doing paying for these foreigners to be housed in Virginia prisons?
Call me cuckoo, but what we should be doing instead is sending these foreign law-breakers back to serve their time in prisons in their own countries. This would save Virginia quite a bit of money, and it would ease Virginia’s prison overcrowding as well. A win-win situation if ever there was one.
There are no exact numbers as to how many non-citizen prisoners are being held in the Virginia Department of Corrections, but according to the U.S. Department of Justice, nationwide, a reported 95,977 non-citizens were held in state custody in 2010. Being one of 50 states, let’s assume that Virginia has one fiftieth of that number, which would mean that there are around 2,000 non-citizen inmates in Virginia prisons.
Now let’s see how much it costs to house those prisoners. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the average annual cost per inmate is $25,498. Which means that each year, Virginia spends around $50 million to incarcerate non-Americans. That is $50 million for people who are not even U.S. Citizens.
Excuse me for stating the obvious, but this makes no sense. Why should we foot the bill for their crimes? Why don’t we send them back to their home countries and save the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) a ton of money – to the tune of $50 million – while opening desperately needed space in our overcrowded prisons.
Certainly, the process of returning these prisoners may not be that straightforward. There may be rules that need to be amended.
The VADOC will have to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) to get these prisoners deported. Then the USDOJ will need to coordinate with each home country to have them repatriated. But hey, that’s why we pay the employees working in both the VADOC and USDOJ, so they can do things like this.
However bureaucratically complicated it might be – beware of paper cuts please – once all the forms are filled out and all the institutional hurdles overcome, these foreign national prisoners will all be deported, transferred to prisons in their home countries, and barred from ever returning to the U.S. They will continue to be punished for their crimes. But Virginia will not foot the bill. Sounds like a plan to me!
For those of you out there who think this is a soft on crime sleight of hand, it’s not. These prisoners are not being set free. They would be sent to prisons in their home countries. Which, in most cases, are tougher than those in the U.S. Though it may be difficult to imagine, some of our prisons are like five-star hotels compared to the dungeons they have in other countries.
That movie “Midnight Express” about Turkish prisons still sends chills down my spine. By sending foreign prisoners back to serve their sentences in the rat holes they call prisons in their home countries, we are actually being tough on crime. Really tough.
This initiative would also be smart on crime. Very smart. To the tune of $50 million a year smart. We would be pro-actively dealing with a current and on-going problem, and finding an intelligent long-term solution. Best of all, the money we save by not having to incarcerate non-citizen prisoners could then be used to better serve citizens all across the state.
Unless there is some super-secret clandestine program forcing Virginia to subsidize foreign prisoners or face the wrath of UN black helicopter riding overlords, I am calling on Gov. McAuliffe to wake up, smell the coffee and send Virginia’s non-citizen prisoners back to their home countries. ASAP.
To help make that happen, I think we should all visit Gov. McAuliffe’s webpage (http://www.governor.virginia.gov/Constituent-services/Communicating-with-the-governors-office) and send him a message that is both tough and smart on crime. Tell him to “Send Virginia’s Non-Citizen Prisoners Home. Today.”
DOUGLAS E. MORRIS
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