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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and her challenger, Josh Katcher (photo illustration by ARLnow)

A Cambodian-American college student partied too hard one night and lived in fear of deportation for decades.

A man whose right to a fair trial was trampled on because, an Arlington County Circuit Court judge said, prosecutors withheld evidence that would have helped his case.

The race to determine the next Democrat-backed Commonwealth’s Attorney has unearthed stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the candidates. They are incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who recently picked up an endorsement from the Arlington teachers union, and challenger Josh Katcher, who nabbed the support of the Arlington police union.

These stories, identified and amplified by the respective political campaigns, reveal the power of the office to determine the course of someone’s life based on the judgment calls they make.

The Cambodian-American woman who got bad legal advice

Rebelling against her sheltered childhood, Cambodian refugee Lundy Khoy went out partying one night in Ballston in 2000 and was arrested for drug possession.

She agreed to plead guilty because her lawyer said she had no defense and no alternative, and he said doing so would not impact her goal of becoming a U.S. citizen. She got off with probation but the plea led to her arrest in 2003 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Until two years ago, Khoy — who was born in a Thai refugee camp — lived in fear of deportation to Cambodia, a country in which she had never lived. The 42-year-old woman became a citizen last year after her case was resolved, for which she thanks Dehghani-Tafti.

“She literally saved my life and my family’s life,” she said. “For the longest time, we were living in this constant fear of me being separated from my child and husband. It wasn’t something that I ever wanted to have happen.”

Her lawyers asked the court to withdraw the guilty plea because Khoy relied on incorrect information. They argued the court should be consistent, pointing to when the court revoked a guilty plea made after the same lawyer provided the same advice to another immigrant defendant.

“I’d like to think we still could’ve won but having us present a united front to the court made it that much easier for the court to say, ‘We’re going to grant this,'” said Sterling Marchand, Khoy’s new lawyer.

But it was Dehghani-Tafti’s judgment call in a different case that created fuel for Katcher’s campaign.

A slighted mother grieving the death of her son 

Braylon Meade was killed by a young man who was driving 95 mph, with weed and some alcohol in his system.

Just shy of his 18th birthday, the defendant was tried as a juvenile. Meade’s mother, Rose Kehoe, denounced this move two months ago and, more recently, in a new ad supporting Katcher. In it, she says Dehghani-Tafti dwelt longer on the future of the young man who killed her son than on justice for the family.

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Apartments proposed along Arlington Blvd, near Courthouse, have cleared the next hurdle on their way to final approvals.

Fortis Companies is proposing to remove a lone, single-family detached home, a “significant tree” identified in neighborhood planning documents, and two surface parking lots. In their place, it proposes a nearly 125-foot tall building with 166 new units and 120 residential parking spaces.

This proposal takes over previously approved plans to build a 104-unit, 12-story building on the site.

With this plan, Fortis intends to achieve LEED Gold certification for the building’s sustainability features, to set aside some on-site units for affordable housing and contribute cash to the Arlington County Affordable Housing Investment Fund in exchange for additional density.

In addition, Fortis proposes to make streetscape and sidewalk improvements to three of the streets bounding the site: N. Fairfax Drive, N. Troy Street and 13th Street N. Part of the changes to Fairfax Drive include turning it into a cul-de-sac and expanding the planting buffer between the Arlington Blvd Trail and Fairfax Drive.

The project at 2025 Fairfax Drive has undergone preliminary review by citizen commissions.

Through this process, Fortis made some tweaks to the overall design of the site and agreed to increase how much vegetation it will plant on a proposed courtyard so that it feels more like an “urban forest,” land-use attorney Andrew Painter said in a mid-May meeting.

“This is a really nice, elegant and lushly planted solution,” architect Jeff Kreps said at the time.

Final approval meetings by the Planning Commission and Arlington County Board have not been set yet.

If approved, Fortis expects construction to start in mid-2024 and last 24-30 months, with a completion date in late 2026, per a presentation it made in the May meeting.

The developer says it will conduct quarterly outreach meetings with the surrounding community. The 1.8-acre site is bordered by the Woodbury Heights Condominiums to the north, Taft Towers condominiums to the east, Arlington Blvd to the south and the Arlington Court Suites hotel to the west.

The historic Wakefield Manor and Courthouse Manor garden apartment complexes, built in the early 1940s, are also part of the site proposed for redevelopment. An easement was granted over these significant apartments to protect them for perpetuity.

In exchange for protecting these apartments, developer Greystar was able to increase the density of its apartment being built on the former Wendy’s in Courthouse.

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Pentagon City’s metamorphosis is continuing.

The second apartment tower in the multi-phase Pentagon Centre shopping center redevelopment is now complete.

The Milton, at 1446 S. Grant Street, is an 11-story, 253-unit building developed by Kimco Realty. So far, it is already 25% leased and move-ins are expected to start this month, a spokeswoman told ARLnow.

Various businesses are expected to move into the roughly 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. In a statement, Kimco Realty says this retail, “carefully curated to complement the neighborhood,” will be announced later this year.

Tenants will have use of a community garden and potting station, two outdoor courtyards with a co-working area, a pet spa with wash stations, a gym and clubroom, per the statement. The building is designed to meet LEED Silver standards for sustainability and was named for Kimco Realty co-founder Milton Cooper.

The first residential tower in the long-term redevelopment of the retail center opened four years ago. The 26-story, 440-unit building, dubbed The Witmer, is located on the other wide of the property, above the second Pentagon City Metro entrance at 710 12th Street S.

Future plans for the area — which Kimco recently updated — propose two office buildings, three more residential towers, additional retail and a hotel, as well as a 30% increase in green space, criss-crossed by planted paths dubbed “green ribbons” in the recently-updated Pentagon City Sector Plan.

In a statement, Kimco Realty Southern Region President Tom Simmons said this new building “offers something new for Pentagon City.”

“The Milton provides residents with direct access to several key sites in Arlington, which has become a huge hub for recent development,” he said, highlighting the essentially complete Amazon HQ2 office complex nearby and the Virginia Tech Innovation campus in Potomac Yard.

The full press release is below.

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MedStar is looking to open its first urgent care facility in Arlington at the base of a building in Ballston owned by Marymount University.

The Maryland-based healthcare nonprofit proposes locating the facility in a retail bay near the corner of N. Fairfax Drive and N. Wakefield Street, per an application filed with Arlington County.

In addition to being its first Arlington location, this facility at 1000 N. Glebe Road would be the second MedStar urgent care facility in Virginia, according to Matthew Roberts, a land-use attorney for the hospital.

Along N. Fairfax Drive, MedStar proposes to build a separate lobby entrance for patients and guests, a manager’s office and at least six exam rooms.

“MedStar intends to develop this space with its signature MedStar Health Urgent Care facility,” Roberts wrote. “MedStar will provide illness and injury treatment, as well as preventative care services, at the facility. In addition to use by the adjacent neighborhoods, MedStar anticipates that its facility will (complement) Marymount University’s operations and will be used by its students.”

The facility will be open to the public, including walk-in patients, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days per week, he said.

It is asking Arlington County for permission to increase the opacity of the windows into the exam rooms so it can protect patient privacy.

“Patient privacy is of great concern to MedStar,” Roberts said. “In addition to exam tables and related furniture, MedStar will install blinds or other window treatments to ensure patient privacy is maintained during examinations.”

The manager’s office and lobby will meet the transparency requirements for retail in Ballston, per the application. Roberts emphasizes that the transparency is not expected to dull activity along the street front.

“MedStar anticipates its urgent care facility will generate foot traffic to the space from students and walk-in patients, and it will maintain a separate lobby entrance to its facility,” he said. “This will serve to generate needed ground floor activation at the Property and in this area of Ballston more generally.”

Arlington County government headquarters (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County has filed a response to the Missing Middle lawsuit against it.

Ten residents are suing the county, arguing that the recently-passed zoning changes known as Missing Middle were approved illegally and would allow development that harms their lives.

In a response shared with ARLnow, dated last Tuesday, May 23, the county argues that the plaintiffs did not prove they, in particular, will be harmed by any new development. It also disputes the claims that the county broke specific provisions in Virginia law related to zoning deliberations and meeting procedures.

Now that both sides have made their cases in writing, a hearing in the civil division of Arlington County Circuit Court is set for July 11 at 10 a.m. In other recent zoning battles in Virginia courts, the lower courts ruled in favor of the county government, while the state Supreme Court overturned those decisions.

The complaint against the county was filed in April, about a month after the Arlington County Board ratified zoning changes that allow the construction of 2-6 unit homes on lots previously zoned for single-family homes.

The plaintiffs complained their property values will be hurt and their quality of life diminished by any new “Expanded Housing Option” or EHO development.

They also said the Arlington County Board failed to properly advertise what was being considered and did not do the due diligence needed to understand the impact of increased density on the neighborhood level.

Arlington County is challenging the legitimacy of the lawsuit, asking the court to rule that the facts of the Missing Middle saga invalidate the claims and dismiss the case so it cannot come before the court again.

On substantive grounds, the county challenges the 10 residents, saying they failed to show the zoning changes will burden them such that the county must provide relief.

For instance, the plaintiffs predicted several negative impacts as a result of the change: increased flooding, sewage backups, school overcrowding and difficulty driving on narrow streets cramped with cars parked on the street. Arlington County says that is speculative at best.

“No property has been developed under the terms of the Zoning Amendment, and any allegations of harm are pure speculation,” the county said in its lawsuit. “The court cannot be asked to issue an advisory opinion based on hypothetical facts.”

The 10 residents also say the Arlington County Board did not consider a long list of societal impacts of which state code requires consideration prior to zoning code changes.

Just because it did not conduct the “special studies or investigations” the plaintiffs claimed were necessary does not mean the factors were not considered at all, Arlington County argues.

“The Board Report, the testimony of the County’s professional staff, and the testimony of the members of the County’s Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Transportation Commission and other advisory commissions and public speakers shows that the County Board adequately considered the factors in [state code],” the suit says.

The plaintiffs also claim the county exceeded its authority when it instituted tree canopy requirements tied to the number of units on a property. They said it violates the Dillon Rule to require more than what is required in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance.

Arlington County sees it differently.

“The county amended its zoning ordinance to create an incentive for tree plantings in exchange for increased density, as permitted through its power to administer incentive zoning,” it says.

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A development proposed for Crystal City is entering the home stretch.

Tonight (Thursday), the Arlington Planning Commission is slated to review and vote on plans from Dweck Properties to add a residential building and a retail building to the existing the Crystal Towers Apartment complex at 1600 S. Eads Street.

The 132-foot, 11-story residential building would have up to 209 units and a penthouse with an amenity space and ground-floor retail, per a Planning Commission report. Dweck proposes 54 studios, 120 1-bedroom and 35 2-bedroom units and is aiming for LEED Gold certification in exchange for extra density.

A single-story, 27,901-square-foot retail building would have building heights ranging from 16 to 22 feet.

If approved, the apartment building would replace an existing surface parking lot between the Crystal Flats building and the existing Crystal Towers buildings fronting S. Eads Street, according to application materials. The new retail building to the north, also fronting South Eads Street, would replace another existing surface parking lot to the north.

As part of the project, dubbed Crystal Towers 3, S. Eads Street will get a median buffer connecting to a buffer built as part of the first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters, north of the site. Dweck proposes adding new sidewalks, street trees and street lights along S. Eads Street as well.

The project would also realize some improvements to an existing open space at the corner of 15th Street S. and S. Eads Street, according to a recent county staff report. Dweck proposes expanding the space by some 700 square feet and adding a boardwalk area with public tables and chairs, bench seating and new pathways, without disturbing a mature oak tree.

Plans call for two green roofs, one over a portion of an existing building and a second over the new retail development fronting S. Eads Street.

Prospective tenants in the new residential building would have access to an existing garage that already serves Crystal Towers residents and the Lofts building nearby. Despite the increased occupancy, the total number of spots is set to drop from 1,152 to 1,061 spots, plus 11 visitor bicycle spots.

The developer intends to make an affordable housing contribution to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) of $1,421,380.

This “could provide gap financing for approximately 18 (committed affordable units) at the nearby Crystal Houses infill development project, a project which is anticipated to request a significant amount of AHIF financing to achieve the County’s stated objective of partnering with the property owner to significantly increase the supply of low and moderate income housing options in Crystal City,” the report says.

The Arlington County Board is slated to review and vote on the project during its meeting on Saturday, June 10.

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The Shelton in Green Valley (staff photo)

Residents of The Shelton, an affordable housing development in the Green Valley neighborhood, are raising concerns about property management and poor treatment of residents.

They previously raised these same issues in 2016, along with other quality-of-life that they say plagued the building, owned by local affordable housing developer AHC Inc.

“We are having problems in my apartment complex,” Frank Duncan, who has lived there since it opened, told members of the Tenant-Landlord Commission earlier this month.

He described an exorbitant water bill, errant late fees, a whole week without hot water and disrespectful management staff. He articulated a feeling among residents that their housing situation is not guaranteed because rent has been paid month-to-month since the pandemic started.

The testimony before the commission comes as AHC Inc. says it is making it easier for residents to report complaints. Some current and former commission members say these complaints reinforce their powerlessness to do more than advise residents. ARLnow has previously reported on how limited mediation options in Arlington, compared to Fairfax County, dissuade residents from bringing up issues.

Duncan said residents feel mistreated when they try to raise issues with management, which causes them to let issues go unresolved.

“When you go to the rent office, the manager is so disrespectful,” Duncan said. “She does not have the time to listen to what we have to say. So, they don’t go in there. They come to get me to go in there and talk.”

Disrespectful management was one of the complaints levied against management at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike two years ago. AHC received public and county scrutiny after ARLnow reported on complaints about poor living conditions at the complex.

Since then, AHC made changes to its operations, including getting new leadership and committing to third-party management at The Serrano, though advocates and some residents say issues persist, WAMU/DCist reported in April.

The nonprofit developer says it is working to address concerns at The Shelton.

“AHC’s mission is to put residents first. Thus, we value resident feedback, take resident concerns seriously, and do not tolerate poor customer service from anyone interacting with residents,” AHC President and CEO Paul Bernard said in a statement. “When we learn about issues, including disrespectful behavior, we act swiftly and follow up with our property management companies.”

AHC spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said the nonprofit developed and distributed a Resident Concern Guide for all residents at all Arlington communities to ensure residents know how to report — and, if needed — escalate issues.

She says the management company, Harbor Group is working extra hours and through staffing shortages to certify residents meet income eligibility requirements to live there. After this is done, Smith says, eligible residents can get back on year-long leases.

Harbor Group is also trying to make bills and late fees for rent easier to understand, she said. The company also scheduled a meeting with residents to discuss concerns and issues. This was planned before the Tenant-Landlord Commission meeting, Smith notes, and was attended by AHC staff and Bernard.

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This spring, Arlington County began buying up properties in the Waverly Hills area to combat flooding.

Already, despite some concerns about how the program would work, three residents have agreed to sell their homes. The county will tear them down and replant the land so water has a place to flow during large rain storms.

All seven Arlington County Board candidates — six of whom are vying for the support of the local Democratic party this primary — say the county needs to change its land-use policies and get more people on board with adding stormwater infrastructure in their backyards, in order to make neighborhoods more resilient to a predicted increase in flooding.

“The July 2018 and 2019 floods in particular really drove this home for us — we had some real life-safety issues pertaining to flooding,” Susan Cunningham said in a forum hosted by nonprofit advocacy group EcoAction Arlington last week.

“[It] highlighted that, not only because of climate change but really because of lack of long-range planning, we have very outdated stormwater management systems that we don’t have a budget to improve,” she continued. “We do have a lot of catch up to do.”

Since the floods, Arlington County has taken steps to manage stormwater beyond buying homes for flood relief.

Starting next year, Arlington will fund its stormwater management plan with a stormwater utility fee. The county will charge property owners a rate based on how much of their property is covered in hard surfaces, like roofs and driveways. (Currently, it is funded by a tax based on property assessments.)

Other changes include new regulations requiring single-family home construction projects to retain more water and some $90 million in bond referenda from 2020 and 2022 for stormwater projects.

Developers of single-family homes report higher construction costs due to retention regulations. Bonds and the new stormwater utility fee, meanwhile, could spell higher taxes for residents.

So, in this race, some candidates say the county should examine how its own policies encourage flooding before requiring more of residents.

Cunningham and Natalie Roy, both of whom have opposed the recently adopted Missing Middle zoning changes, that starts with reducing the allowable buildable area that homes can occupy on a lot.

“This is something that we should’ve done 10 years ago and definitely something we should have done before approving the misguided [Missing Middle] plan,” Roy said.

Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement said she would call for the repeal of Missing Middle, linking the new policy to tree loss and thus, increased flooding.

She said she would also end a practice among developers to subdivide lots to circumvent state environmental ordinances preventing construction near protected land along Arlington streams called “resource protection areas,” or RPAs.

“It was by this sleight of hand that the county permitted a tear-down McMansion in a North Arlington RPA in 2018 but also the destruction of a 100-foot state champion redwood on the same lot,” she said.

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Customers line up outside the Shirlington Post Office to send out packages (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The saga of slow mail delivery in Arlington continues.

Now, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) is bringing the county’s issues to the federal government.

There have been grumblings for years of spotty mail delivery service in parts of Arlington. Locals frequently post stories of their problems getting or sending mail on the social media platform Nextdoor.

Now, Kaine is asking the United States Postal Service to review these frustrating experiences and provide explanations and a list of steps USPS will take to fix them.

“I am concerned that Virginia communities as far-flung as Smyth County in Southwest Virginia, the Richmond area (nearly 300 miles away from Chilhowie by highway), and Arlington, across the river from Washington, D.C., are all experiencing missing bills, medications, tax documents, and days/weeks without mail,” Kaine wrote in a letter — which he sent electronically.

“My constituents are understandably frustrated and eager to know if help is on the way. I appreciate any information you can share,” he continued.

Kaine referenced one specific story he heard from an Arlingtonian who “repeatedly went several days without mail over the period of several months and did not receive specific items, including a Virginia Auto Registration from the DMV and a Virginia Driver’s license.”

In the letter, he included the response from USPS:

After investigation and consultation with local management, it has been found that the office may experience delivery delays due to employee availability issues. However, they are taking the steps necessary to ensure every effort has been made to deliver the mail daily. The route in which your constituent resides is current however delivery on this route maybe later in the day. Once again, please allow us to apologize for the unfortunate customer experience.

His letter also detailed issues from other parts of the state, including missed mail or infrequent or late-at-night delivery as well as never-returned phone calls requesting assistance.

“I request that you review these concerns, provide information on how these are being addressed, and share what factors are causing what appear to be systemic challenges with processing mail promptly and getting it successfully to the right place,” he said.

Within the last week, one Colonial Village resident took to Nextdoor to say it took two weeks for a check to go no more than four miles as the crow flies.

“I can top that,” a neighbor replied. “My mother in law showed us two pieces of mail that she just got returned to her. The postmark was from 2021.”

“A few months ago I mailed a letter 2-day Priority, Signature Required at the 22204 Post Office,” a third user said. “It took 8 days to get to a 22201 address!”

Some users were more optimistic, calling on neighbors to increase their use of USPS.

“We should keep using the Postal system because the more we use it, the more funding there is, the better the service will get,” wrote one woman.

Another issued a recruiting call to arms.

“Let’s spread the word to older teens and twenty-somethings looking for work that not just the Post Office, but the Federal Gov’t itself needs sufficient numbers of good public servants in order to run well,” she said.

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Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey speaks at a press conference announcing new flight patterns to mitigate noise on April 25, 2023 (courtesy photo)

The delay in the second phase of Amazon’s HQ2 may not be for all that long, according to Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey.

Garvey appeared on WAMU’s The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi late last week, talking about whether Amazon is still good for Arlington County and defending the current number of flights out of Reagan National Airport against attempts to add more, particularly long-haul flights.

The first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City is basically complete and is set to open next month, with some 50,000 square feet of retail space filled with everything from a bike shop to a doggy daycare to several restaurants and bars.

Plans for the second phase, including the futuristic double helix, are still in flux. The “pause” announced earlier this year coincided with other announcements the company made to lay off more than 18,000 employees and pause office construction projects in Nashville and around Seattle.

“I know there’s been some concern that Phase 2 has been delayed but it’s not been delayed by a lot,” Garvey said. “We’re understanding it’s just a year, which, actually — if you think about what’s been happening in the last couple of years — a delay in some ways is quite reasonable.”

Here, Tom Sherwood, the radio show’s resident analyst, interrupted to say he had only heard speculation that the delay would only be for one year.

“I don’t know what they’ve said publicly. I know what I’ve heard,” Garvey responded, with a chuckle. “How public that is, I don’t know. I guess it’s public now.”

The biggest concern for the Arlington County Board regarding the second phase is the construction of a permanent home for Arlington Community High School and child care facilities, she said, adding that “our understanding is that is continuing to move forward.”

Overall, she said, Amazon is “absolutely right” for Arlington.

“In fact, it’s been helpful,” she continued. “One of the big concerns of any large metropolitan area right now is the vacancy rate and whether businesses are going to be coming. Amazon continues to be doing quite well and attracts folks here which I think is very good for us.”

She credited the company for investing significantly in local affordable housing to meet “a major need.”

Across all of its communities, the tech company has said it is investing $2 billion in affordable housing.

“Everything is in transition but it’s still a good deal for Arlington,” she said, adding that Arlington County has yet to pay Amazon any economic incentive money.

Garvey said the county agreed to pay Amazon for meeting office occupancy targets using expected revenue from the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax, which is levied on hotel rooms and other lodging. The county intended to draw from this because HQ2 would generate more business travel, she noted.

Speaking of travel, Garvey was quizzed about why National Airport should not expand and have more flights in response to a proposed bill proposed by members of Congress from Georgia and Utah. The bill is opposed by local lawmakers but has support from many locals and an advocacy group.

“It’s a small airport and it doesn’t have long runways for the really big planes,” she said. “There’s a limit to what you can do and what is safe and what makes sense. It’s plenty busy. Lots of planes go in and out.”

Garvey says it makes sense for DCA to handle shorter flights and Dulles to handle long-distance ones, especially now that people can take the Silver Line all the way to Dulles. Besides, she added, DCA is already noisy enough for people who live nearby.

“The noise of the airplanes drives some of our residents crazy,” she said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and her challenger, Josh Katcher (photo illustration by ARLnow)

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Arlington’s police union is endorsing challenger Josh Katcher in the race for Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Katcher is running against incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in the Democratic primary to determine who has the local party’s nomination to run this fall.

Dehghani-Tafti campaigned on criminal justice reform and won her first term in 2019, after beating Theo Stamos, for whom Katcher previously worked (he also worked for Dehghani-Tafti before leaving the office).

The incumbent has focused her re-election campaign on the reforms she has made, such as ending cash bail, a requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal case, and prosecution for marijuana possession. She has endorsements of several current and former state legislators and members of the Arlington County Board and School Board and the Washington Post.

Katcher has focused on allegations of rising crime, staffing issues within the top prosecutor’s office and crime victims who say they were not respected. He picked up the endorsement from Arlington Coalition of Police (ACOP) because, the organization says, the current relationship between local police and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is crumbling.

“ACOP has spent the last 7 months attempting to stay out of the Commonwealth Attorney’s race,” it said in a press release. “We understood that whoever won, officers would still need to have a working relationship with the winner. Although that current working relationship is extremely poor, we worried that any statement would make the relationship even worse.”

The organization says it was reluctant to speak up until now — with less than a month before the primary on June 20 — but wants to correct the record about statements Dehghani-Tafti has made on the campaign trail.

In a recent Arlington County Civic Federation debate, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney said her office has a “healthy” relationship with officers and that prosecution rates are down because police are apprehending fewer people.

ACOP says this “could not be any further from the truth” and it “cannot sit by idly while she intentionally misleads the public.”

It listed some of the issues officers say they have with how the top prosecutor’s office currently runs:

On almost a daily basis, members of ACOP email their union representatives with complaints about Ms. Tafti’s office. The most common recurring complaints are about a lack of preparation from the prosecutors, subpoenas not being issued in a timely manner (sometimes never being issued at all), a case getting dismissed without ever contacting the arresting officer, DUIs being plead down to reckless driving with no explanation, subsequent DUIs being plead down to first offenses, and a general lack of communication about cases and outcomes.

Citing felony arrest and indictment data, it countered a claim she made in the debate that police are apprehending fewer people. ACOP says the number of arrests is “the highest it has been for at least six years,” if marijuana possession arrests are removed.

“Felony arrests in Arlington County have remained relatively consistent with the exception of 2020 during Covid,” the release said. “What has not remained consistent is the percentage of felonies that were indicted by the Commonwealth Attorney.”

Arrests by Arlington County Police Department (via Arlington Coalition of Police)

In the 2019 fiscal year — the year before Dehghani-Tafti took office — approximately 41% of felony arrests were indicted to Arlington County Circuit Court, compared to 15% in 2022, ACOP says, citing recent budget materials.

Dehghani-Tafti provided data the state collected from Arlington indicating a steady decline in arrests made since 2012. while a sharp uptick in simple assaults — from 721 in 2018 to 1,146 in 2021 — may explain an uptick in offenses.

Arrests versus offenses in Arlington through 2021 (courtesy Parisa Dehghani-Tafti)

Meanwhile, a sharp uptick in simple assaults — from 721 in 2018 to 1,146 in 2021 — may explain an uptick in offenses.

Simple assaults appear to be on the rise (courtesy Parisa Dehghani-Tafti)

As for indictments, Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow these are lower because her office is not hitting defendants with several charges related to one criminal incident, a tactic she says prosecutors can employ to force defendants to plead guilty and not go to trial.

“It’s our policy to not stack charges and over charge,” she recently told ARLnow. “We’re not afraid to go to trial and check our evidence with fair and reasonable charges. When we go to trial, we win more than the prior administration.”

Between 2020 and 2022, prosecutors in her office obtained guilty verdicts on cases with one or more charges 75% of the time compared to 64% under Stamos, she said. Guilty verdict for the most serious charges brought forward, across all misdemeanors and felonies tried, was 72% between 2020-22, up from 57% from 2015 to 2019.

The ratio of felony cases that are indicted (via Arlington Coalition of Police)

(The chart, also provided by ACOP, does not include data for 2017 or 2018. ACOP said it could not find publicly available data for those years. ARLnow also could not immediately find data from those years in budget documents.)

ACOP said it has worked with Katcher for the last decade and see him as “experienced and competent.”

“Josh will be able to lead the office through his experience and mold the attorneys in the office into skilled litigators,” the organization said. “Most importantly, we know Josh will get the relationship between ACPD and the CWA office back on track to where prosecutions are a collaborative effort between the two departments.”

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