Transparency News 11/15/19



November 15, 2019


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state & local news stories


"The body camera of Portsmouth Police Sgt. Misty Holley captured part of what happened when she shot a suspect. 'You are not going to remember everything perfectly,' she said."

The Supreme Court of Virginia may question a state lawyer-legislator next month about his extended use of the state’s legislative continuance privilege. Del. Jeffrey Campbell, R-Marion, has used the legislative continuance statute to delay a Supreme Court appeal for more than a year based on an ongoing 2018 special session of the General Assembly. In a rare move, the justices have ordered a full court hearing next month on a motion to compel Campbell to file a brief in the appeal, even though the Assembly technically remains in session. The case implicates the boundaries between legislative and judicial prerogatives. The underlying case involves closed-door meetings of the Smyth County Board of Supervisors. The board acted to withdraw from a regional library system in 2017. Plaintiffs in an open-government lawsuit claimed the library decision was made “in secret, behind closed doors, and in hushed tones,” the Smyth County News & Messenger reported.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly

Two U.S. Park Police officers who fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in 2017 will not be charged with any crimes in connection with the incident, federal prosecutors said Thursday. The decision came just days before the two-year anniversary of the slaying. The Park Police never explained why the officers shot Ghaisar. Police also did not publicly identify the officers; their names were revealed in a civil lawsuit filed by the Ghaisar family in federal court in Alexandria. In that civil suit, the officers contend they fired in self-defense. The shooting prompted legislation that would require federal officers to wear body cameras.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A special prosecutor will urge Clarke General District Court to drop seven malfeasance charges lodged against Berryville Town Council Recorder Harry Lee “Jay” Arnold Jr. in connection with a recent investigation in which the Virginia State Police were involved. Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams said he believes Arnold has committed no wrongdoing based on evidence he has seen since the misdemeanor charges were issued within the past week. The Winchester Star on Thursday was unable to obtain copies of criminal complaints in the case. Information on Virginia’s online judiciary information system showed the charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred between Jan. 1, 2018, and Sept. 25, 2019. It indicated the charges stem from alleged violations of state code Section 2.2-3122, which reads, “Any person who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of malfeasance in office or employment. Upon conviction thereof, the judge or jury trying the case, in addition to any other fine or penalty provided by law, may order the forfeiture of such office or employment.” The section is part of code Chapter 31, which deals with the State and Local Government Conflicts of Interest Act, and Article 3, which outlines prohibited conduct related to contracts.
The Winchester Star

When questioned about why she shot a man in the hand last July, a Portsmouth police officer offered a different version of events than what her body camera recorded, according to a summary of her statement to state police obtained by The Virginian-Pilot. Sgt. Misty Holley said Robertson Demeurant was holding a gun July 2 when she opened fire and that he pointed it at her as he tried to run away. The video, however, shows the gun being pulled from his pants pocket after he was on the ground. The body camera of Portsmouth Police Sgt. Misty Holley captured part of what happened July 2, 2019, when she shot a suspect. “You are not going to remember everything perfectly,” she said.
The Virginian-Pilot

More than a year after a contentious meeting of the Albemarle County School Board ended with several arrests, the cases have wrapped up with a conviction and a withdrawn appeal. Thursday morning, Andrea Massey appeared in Albemarle County Circuit Court to appeal her earlier misdemeanor trespassing conviction. Janice Redinger, Massey’s attorney, said her client was at the School Board meeting to support her friends and had no plans to disrupt the meeting. Seated in the front row, Massey, along with several others, silently held a sign that read “racists don’t get re-elected,” Redinger said. While the meeting was going on, various protesters gathered in the foyer outside Lane Auditorium, chanting protests and holding their own “community meeting.” After the scene in the foyer devolved and several people were arrested on charges of trespassing and other crimes by county police officers, an unidentified woman ran into the auditorium screaming about the arrests, Redinger said. Then-board Chairwoman Kate Acuff told the woman that she was trespassing and had to leave. Massey would later testify that hearing Acuff dismiss the “clearly distressed” woman upset her and that she said, “You’re ridiculous” to the chairwoman. Redinger argued that Massey’s comment to Acuff did not meet the threshold for disruption at a public meeting. 
The Daily Progress

Activists are accusing the development team behind a major arena proposal of paying people who held signs supporting the controversial $1.5 billion plan at Richmond City Council meeting this week. And so far, no one’s denying the payments occurred. Chelsea Higgs Wise, an opponent of the redevelopment proposal, said she was surprised to see members of her extended family at the City Council meeting Tuesday night but then disappointed to learn why they were there. “They told me in confidence that they were getting paid $25 and that they just showed up to hold a sign and that’s what they were asked to do,” Wise said. “And this is not the first time.”
Virginia Mercury


stories of national interest

A California law was designed to ensure that state agencies had websites accessible for people with disabilities. But, pages that weren’t meeting standards are being removed to accommodate short timelines, making the info inaccessible to everyone.

The Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and a coalition of 21 media organizations are supporting a New York daily newspaper’s fight for attorneys’ fees after a state agency failed to promptly release documents related to the opening of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by attorneys for Baker Hostetler on Nov. 8, the media coalition argues that the New York State Thruway Authority’s nine-month delay in producing records to the Journal News was unreasonable and that the paper is entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs. The media coalition’s brief urges the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, to reverse a trial court ruling, which concluded that the agency’s delay in releasing the records was not unreasonable and declined to award the newspaper attorneys’ fees.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press


quote_2.jpg"The media coalition argues that the New York State Thruway Authority’s nine-month delay in producing records to the Journal News was unreasonable."


editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"The paper, whose publication costs include a $750 printing bill, Mr. Lepore’s salary and other expenses, is an object of value, whether it is sold or given away."

It turns out, after what campus police called an “in-depth” investigation, that a low-level university employee — neither administrator nor professor — was caught on video and admitted stealing papers from four of the news racks, as The Post’s Joe Heim reported. The administration and police won’t reveal the thief’s identity, although they know it; they won’t charge the employee because they say taking free newspapers is not a crime; and they won’t offer an explanation of who swiped the papers from 18 other news racks. Nor will they offer a motive or explanation for the theft. Radford said the thief has been disciplined and that the matter, along with incriminating police video, is a closed “personnel issue.” The thief was not acting on anyone’s direction, a university spokesman said. That strains credulity. It is also hard to believe the employee acted alone; when the newspaper is delivered to campus each week, it takes two hours to distribute it, by golf cart, to all the news racks. Nor, as campus police suggest, does the fact that the Tartan is distributed for free mean that no crime was committed. The paper, whose publication costs include a $750 printing bill, Mr. Lepore’s salary and other expenses, is an object of value, whether it is sold or given away.
The Washington Post