Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office: Murder witness’ recantation ‘meritless’
The argument is based on a witness in Ryan Williams' trial, Chad Venus, who has recanted his testimony.
Williams' Leesburg-based attorneys, Lindsay Hendrix and Eric J. Demetriades, in a motion filed Oct. 17 in Loudoun County Circuit Court, claim that Chand was purposely placed in a cell with Williams to “mine information” from him on the murder of 30-year-old JoVaughn Johnson of Sterling.
According to court testimony, Williams shot Johnson for “snitching.”
Johnson was found dead in his car, parked near Great Trail and Trail Run terraces in Sterling, Dec. 27, 2012. He had been shot five times, including in the face. His body wasn’t found for several hours.
The attorneys also claim Chand was promised a deal to reduce his sentence if he cooperated with law enforcement and prosecutors and that a Loudoun County detective destroyed evidence prior to Williams' case going to trial.
The motion alleges that during meetings with Loudoun County Detective C. Cunningham, Chand was given information from the case to help with his testimony against Williams.
In reply to the motion the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office calls Williams' attorneys' claims “meritless.”
“Defense counsel provides no proof of such misconduct and provides no legal support as to its requested remedy,” the reply reads.
Williams, the commonwealth says, was transferred to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center from Loudoun in March 2013 after it was reported to law enforcement that he was using fellow inmates to relay information or threats to potential commonwealth witnesses also in custody.
Chand, the commonwealth says, had been in a cell alone before and after Williams' tenure in Fairfax. Prosecutors to this day are not aware of anyone else incarcerated with Williams related to his prosecution.
The two, according to defense attorneys, met over a game of chess in jail.
Prosecutors became aware of Chand in May 2013 after a Fairfax County ADC deputy called Cunningham in Loudoun and told her that Williams had confessed to a murder. Cunningham immediately met with Chand, who Williams confessed to about the murder of Johnson.
After speaking with Chand, Cunningham, through a series of email exchanges with prosecutors, was told that “anything Williams says to [Chand] has to be spontaneous and [of] Williams own doing,” according to the commonwealth's reply brief.
In response to Cunningham destroying photographic evidence on her cellphone, the commonwealth says the detective did not intentionally destroy anything.
The photos of the crime scene and victim were accidentally deleted from the phone, but were able to be recovered and downloaded to a CD. That CD was placed into discovery, the commonwealth says.
The commonwealth says it never promised Chand any time off his sentence for cooperating in the prosecution of Williams.
According to court documents, on May 24, 2013, Chand, while in custody, wrote to Cunningham that he had decided to help the commonwealth “without any consideration whatsoever. If you told me tomorrow that you nor the Commonwealth Attorney could do nothing in my case, I would still move forward with my assistance.”
Williams' attorneys claim that during meetings with Cunningham, Chand was given information from the case to help with his testimony against Williams.
The commonwealth says Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Rosen prepared Chand for trial by asking him questions that he might be asked and by asking questions in the form of cross-examination.
A mitigating factor
A jury on Jan. 30 recommended a 45-year active sentence for Chand, who was being held at the Fairfax County ADC on kidnapping and robbery charges.
On Aug. 2, a judge suspended 10 years of that sentence. According to court documents, Chand's attorney called Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Alejandro Amato as a witness on his client's behalf. Amato testified specifically about Chand's cooperation and assistance in the prosecution of Williams.
However, the commonwealth says Amato, in a memo, wrote that she had made it clear there was nothing Loudoun prosecutors could do to help get his sentence reduced. In the memo, Amato does tell Chand's attorney that she believes Chand's cooperation with prosecutors is “a mitigating factor that was appropriate for the court to consider.”
On Aug. 7, in a motion to reconsider a hearing, attorneys for the commonwealth and the lead detective on a different murder case in Fairfax in which Chand was called as a witness, testified on his behalf. Chand's sentence was reduced again by another 10 years.
Prior to Chand's involvement in a kidnapping and robbery in Fairfax, he was arrested in connection with an armed Craigslist scam in Springfield, Ore., according to media reports.
Reports said Chand had advertised a vehicle for sale on Craigslist. Once he met the potential seller, reports said Chand took out a handgun and demanded the victim give him money. The victim gave the suspect the envelope with $4,000 cash that was supposed to be payment for the car.