A group of state lawmakers is urging Arlington’s top prosecutor to reform the county’s cash bail bond system — but Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos thinks they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Each one of the three state senators and four state delegates representing Arlington in Richmond, not to mention two lawmakers from nearby Falls Church, sent a letter on the subject to Stamos last Thursday (June 21).
Echoing efforts by criminal justice reform advocates around the country, the lawmakers argued that requiring people to post a cash bond to earn their freedom contributes to the “disproportionate incarceration of low-income individuals and people of color.” They’d rather see Stamos adopt a system for pretrial release “based more on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s perceived public safety and flight risk, rather than the ability to pay.”
“The current system of cash bail is broken in that it conditions the pretrial release of individuals on the ability to pay, violating the principle of the presumption of innocence that is foundational to our criminal justice system,” the lawmakers wrote.
Stamos says she’s joined some of her colleagues around the state in examining such a policy change, but, fundamentally, she feels this “was a rather silly letter to send me.”
“I think the letter is misguided on a number of levels,” Stamos told ARLnow. “If these members of the General Assembly have a problem with cash bail, they should change the law. It’s perfectly within their power to do so.”
Stamos says prosecutors in her office regularly recommend releasing people on “personal recognizance bonds,” giving them the chance to go free before trial with paying. However, Stamos feels bound by state law, which obligates prosecutors to evaluate if someone charged with a crime “is a flight risk or a threat to the community” when assigning a cash bond.
“I understand the considerations around cash bail, but the countervailing considerations are: who is being held and why are they being held?” Stamos said. “Do they have a prior criminal history? Are they a flight risk? Many of our defendants are from D.C. or Maryland, and we don’t have the resources to be extraditing everyone.”
Yet the lawmakers argue in their letter that other jurisdictions have seen success with such a policy change, noting that prosecutors in Richmond agreed to end cash bail earlier this year.
They point out that most low-income people can’t afford to post a sizable cash bond, which often “translates to weeks of missed income, employment or education before ever having been convicted of a crime.” The lawmakers add that holding so many people before their trials start can be costly for the county — they estimate Arlington pays as much as $182 per day for each person it holds in jail, while other methods of pretrial monitoring can cost as little as $7 each day.
Stamos agrees that there could be “some adjustments we can make” to the process, but she also urged the lawmakers to consider the impact of a policy change for everyone involved in each court proceeding.
“There is a cost as well for witnesses or victims of crime who come to court and the defendant doesn’t show up,” Stamos said.
Most of all, however, Stamos is confused why the lawmakers chose to fire off a letter to her on the issue, rather than working with her a bit more directly.
“Not one of my good colleagues in the General Assembly have one time picked up the phone about this,” Stamos said. “This is news to me that this is a big concern of theirs. Not one has asked me about my position.”
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A suspended Taylor Elementary gym teacher, accused of smoking pot in the school, has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession.
Luke Lloyd of Fairfax, Va. entered the plea Tuesday morning before Arlington General District Court Judge Frances O’Brien. He was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail, with 20 days suspended. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and complete substance abuse treatment, we’re told.
Lloyd began serving the net ten day sentence on Friday. Most first-time marijuana offenders walk free, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said her office pushed for a stiffer sentence.
“It’s typical for a first time possession of marijuana case to result in a deferred disposition,” Stamos said. “My office, however, argued against such an outcome given the particular facts of this case. Those facts include what appears to have been a rather steady course of use, at times at the school, that we learned about from an anonymous tip to ACPD.”
A second Taylor P.E. teacher nabbed by police, Michael Diaddigo, was also facing possession of marijuana charges, which have since been dropped. Stamos, however, said charges against Diaddigo are expected to be filed soon in Arlington County Circuit Court, which typically handles more serious criminal cases. Stamos declined to elaborate on the charges, since the case is pending.
Lloyd and Diaddigo were both suspended without pay by Arlington Public Schools “pending the outcome of the legal case,” a spokesman said. So far, there is no word on Lloyd’s employment status following the plea. A third Taylor P.E. teacher who was accused of smoking marijuana at the school is currently on administrative leave.
VDOT to Talk I-66 in Arlington — VDOT officials are expected to provide some specifics about their plan to upgrade I-66 inside the Beltway during a meeting with the Arlington Transportation Commission. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. VDOT is said to be considering converting a portion of I-66 into HOT lanes. The agency has yet to reveal whether it will push for additional lanes inside the Beltway as well. [InsideNova]
Arlington Prosecutor Takes Morrissey Case — Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos will be the lead prosecutor in the latest criminal case against Del. Joe Morrissey, who is currently serving a work-release jail sentence after pleading guilty to having sex with a 17-year-old. [Washington Post]
Cops: Don’t Drive Drunk After the Big Game — Arlington County Police are reminding residents not to drive drunk after the Super Bowl on Sunday. For those planning on downing a few brewskies, ACPD recommends designating a driver, calling a cab or taking public transit. “Don’t want to attend the Detention Center’s #SuperBowlXLIX viewing party? Plan ahead by designating a #SoberRide home,” the department said via Twitter. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Energy Journey Game This Weekend — Call it the Super Bowl of local government-sponsored, energy-themed, life-sized board games. This weekend, Arlington County is holding the latest installment of its “Energy Journey Game,” an interactive life-size board game that tests your “energy IQ.” It’s taking place at Wakefield High School starting at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Arlington County]
A Visit to Pentagon City’s DEA Museum — The Capitol Hill publication Roll Call has a gonzo journalism account of one reporter’s trip to the DEA Museum in Pentagon City. From the article’s prelude: “And suddenly, there was a terrible mall all around us and the sky was full of what looked like squat office buildings — all glass and concrete and blocking out the sunlight — and the sound of the Metro, which ran underneath the Pentagon City Mall and the Pentagon Centre and the Drug Enforcement Agency Museum at 700 Army Navy Drive in Arlington, Va.” [Roll Call]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
Civ Fed Considering Retail Plan Opposition — The Arlington County Civic Federation is considering opposing the county’s update of its retail action plan. “What problem are we trying to solve here?” asked the writer of a resolution that calls for the county to scrap the effort. [InsideNova]
WaPo Supports County Outreach Initiative — The Washington Post editorial board has penned an editorial in support of the new community outreach effort that Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes announced at the Board’s New Years Day meeting. [Washington Post]
Arthur Announces Reelection Bid — Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur formally announced her bid for reelection at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Arthur touted her role in making the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse “one of the best jails in the country.” She also noted that her children, ages 3 and 6 when she first became sheriff, will be old enough to vote for her for the first time in November.
Stamos Running For Reelection — Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos also announced her reelection bid at Wednesday’s ACDC meeting. She cited her office’s drug addiction program for offenders and two recent murder convictions as notable successes.
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
APS Bans E-Cigarettes — The Arlington School Board on Dec. 4 voted to ban students from bringing e-cigarettes onto school grounds. Arlington Public Schools is also stepping up its effort to warn students and residents of the prospective dangers of e-cigarettes. [InsideNova]
‘Polish Night’ at Clarendon Cafe — Oby Lee, the cafe and wine bar at 3000 Washington Blvd in Clarendon, will be josting a “Polish night” on Friday. The cafe will include traditional Polish dishes like pierogi, golabki cabbage, krokiety crepes and jablecznik apple pie. [Clarendon Nights]
Stamos to Return to ACDC Good Graces — Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos is expected to be welcomed back to the Arlington County Democratic Committee within a month. Stamos and the committee parted ways earlier this year after she endorsed independent John Vihstadt for County Board. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
The Arlington County Police Department wants to build its relationship with the community in light of the national unrest surrounding the events in Ferguson, Mo., this summer.
To help strengthen the community’s trust in the ACPD, the department is hosting a forum this Wednesday at the Wakefield High School auditorium (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
“With recent national media coverage of law enforcement and community relationships, the Arlington County Police Department feels it is imperative to continue to build relationships through open dialogue,” ACPD said in a press release. “The Arlington County Chief of Police, along with Commonwealth Attorney, County Sheriff and other distinguished panel members, will conduct a community forum focusing on the community’s trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
Police Chief Doug Scott, Sheriff Beth Arthur, Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos, NAACP Arlington President Elmer Lowe, community activist Andres Tobar, who is the director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, and ARLnow.com founder and editor Scott Brodbeck.
WJLA’s Jeff Goldberg will moderate the panel, which will hold a discussion with topics including use of force, community policing and the use of police body cameras, according to the police department. After the discussion, the panelists will answer audience questions.
The event is free and open to the public. ACPD will be live-tweeting the event at its Twitter account for those who can’t attend.
New Security Measures at Schools — This school year, Arlington Public Schools has three additional police officers assigned as school resource officers at elementary schools. The school system has also added 30 new video cameras in secondary schools, which can be viewed by the county’s 911 call center and by school resource officers. [Washington Post]
Stamos Back in the ACDC Fold — Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has apparently been welcomed back into the good graces of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Stamos voluntarily stepped down from the committee after she endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze. [InsideNova]
Bracket Room to Celebrate Anniversary — Contrary to the pessimistic predictions of its critics, Clarendon sports bar The Bracket Room is about to celebrate its one year anniversary and seems to be thriving. Former Bachelorette cast member Chris Bukowski opened the bar, at 1210 N. Garfield Street, on Sept. 5, 2013. Bracket Room is planning a birthday party on Saturday, Sept. 6. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night, pre-empting a planned vote on whether to remove her.
Garvey read a 15-minute statement to the committee before handing in her resignation at the ACDC’s meeting last night, which was closed to the media.
Garvey told ARLnow.com she said the ACDC needs to evaluate why Republican-endorsed independent John Vihstadt won the April 8 special election over Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-41 margin.
“The party’s got some thinking to do about what’s going on,” she said. “The decision they have is make is if they go ahead and continue to support elected officials who it seems pretty clearly are not representing what people want. Are we going to talk about local issues or just go lockstep with what a few elected officials say we should be doing? I hope they take some time to talk and think about it. They need to figure out what the real questions and issues are, why John won, and figure out what that’s going to mean moving forward.”
Garvey supported Vihstadt, gave $1,000 to his campaign and called his election “a victory for good government.” She has also irked rank-and-file Democrats with her outspoken opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar.
Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey, who stood outside the 45-minute, closed ACDC meeting Monday night, reported that some attendees “seemed dazed by the experience and stunned by the vehemence of Garvey’s comments.”
ACDC Chairman Kip Malinosky, who called for the hearing to remove Garvey after he reportedly received numerous complaints about her conduct, said there’s a general “sense of relief” around the committee after they weren’t forced to vote on Garvey’s future.
“People still got along with each other, people still cracked jokes,” he said. “They just realized it was one of the things we had to do. The thing is, all she had to do was endorse a Democratic primary candidate. The Arlington Democrats are not the County Board. When [streetcar opponent Democrat] Cord Thomas said he was going to run against Alan Howze, I said, ‘Welcome, come on.'”
Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos — who also supported Vihstadt, a longtime friend, and plans to do so again when he runs against Howze in November’s general election — also agreed to no longer attend ACDC meetings or vote in hearings, but said she had made that decision informally in December after Vihstadt decided to run.
“[My decision] wasn’t tied to the committee’s actions against Libby,” Stamos told ARLnow.com. “I had numerous conversations with Kip, all perfectly equitable and we agreed this was the appropriate thing to do.”
Garvey said she didn’t decide to be a committee member, but all Democrat elected officials become committee members by default, once they’re elected, giving them access to ACDC data and resources. Malinosky said he’ll welcome Stamos and Garvey back after the November election if they decide to support only Democrat candidates.
Garvey said she’d be happy to come back, if the ACDC takes her, and said she only requested the meeting for the good of the Democratic Party.
“I want to be helpful to ACDC,” she said. “I understand that I violated the bylaws. I get that… There were some things I think the ACDC needed to hear. I’m not the problem, I’m a symptom. I didn’t want to make them go through [the voting process], I wanted to be helpful.”
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) The Alexandria woman whose infant died after being locked in a hot car for six hours on a sweltering July day pleaded guilty today to felony child neglect.
Zoraida Magal Conde Hernandez, 32, submitted an Alford plea, meaning she accepts the verdict without technically admitting guilt in the case. Hernandez and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos agreed to two years and six months of probation, and, barring a violation, a dismissal of charges after that.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Molly Newton said Hernandez, after dropping two other children off at their summer activities in Alexandria, forgot that her 8-month-old son was strapped in his car seat when she drove to her job at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and locked her car in the parking lot.
Newton said it was only when she picked up her 3-year-old daughter on July 5 at 3:30 p.m. did she notice the baby was purple and not breathing. Hernandez then drove to Inova Alexandria Hospital, where the baby was pronounced dead from hyperthermia with an internal temperature of 108 degrees.
“It has been a very difficult case for everyone involved,” Newton told the judge. “We’ve always believed the case has been a crime. The reaction from the community has not been such.”
Newton said that sympathy for the mother in similar cases has led to acquittals despite the evidence. Stamos said after the plea hearing that, in some jurisdictions, Hernandez’s crime wouldn’t bring charges. It’s unusual, Stamos said, for a felony case to “be adjudicated without a finding of guilt.”
“Clearly there are strong views on either side of this,” Stamos said. “It was difficult for the arresting officer, the medical examiner and the physicians involved.”
Stamos said an incident of a child dying in a hot car hadn’t happened in Arlington in 28 years. If Hernandez had been found guilty by a jury, she could have been incarcerated for anywhere from one day to five years. Newton said that, because Hernandez was incarcerated for two weeks before and after her bond hearing, the Commonwealth’s Attorney felt further incarceration wasn’t necessary.
“We want her to be accountable,” Newton said. “By entering this plea, she is. She has done everything we have wanted her to do.”
Hernandez’s other four children are still with Child Protective Services in Alexandria, and her case is making its way through that city’s administrative and court system, Newton said. Hernandez didn’t noticeably react during the proceeding, which took a little less than a half hour, even when Newton read the prosecution’s account of July 5’s event.
Photo via ACPD
Michael Cullen, of no fixed address, received a 12-year jail sentence for the thefts. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of grand larceny with the intent to sell, and one count of possession of burglarious tools. Cullen has the ability to suspend four years of his sentence if full restitution is paid to his victims.
“In Arlington, we have the ability to prosecute all types of cases,” said Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. “Protecting the property of residents is of the utmost importance and thieves such as Michael Cullen will be prosecuted to the fullest.”
Because recent data compiled by the police department indicated bike thefts are at an all-time high, the Arlington County Police Department’s Burglary/Larceny Unit spearheaded a regional police cooperation to reduce the amount of bicycle thefts and to identify suspects. An increase in patrols and surveillance, along with hours of police detective work, led to a number of arrests.
Police say the following individuals have been arrested, in addition to Michael Cullen, as part of the regional bike theft crackdown:
- “Aldrick Johnson was observed on video attempting to break into an apartment building. Security called police and Mr. Johnson was apprehended. He pled guilty to possession of burglarious tools and burglary and received a sentence of four years with three years suspended.”
- “Ositafimma Emegbuism was Aldrick Johnson’s co-defendant. Mr. Emegbuism pled guilty to unlawful entry and received 6 months.”
- “John Sears was apprehended after a citizen observed him tampering with a bicycle inside of a parking garage. Police located Sears with a stolen bicycle in his possession not far from the incident. The bicycle had a cut cable lock and the rear tire was partially removed. Warrants for possession of burglarious tools, possession of drug paraphernalia, providing false ID to law enforcement, attempted grand larceny, destruction of property, and credit card theft were obtained.”
- “Irvin Coleman was identified as a suspect in multiple bike larcenies in Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria after pawning multiple bikes on separate occasions. Warrants were obtained for Coleman for his involvement in the theft/pawning of bicycles from Ballston Mall. Coleman avoided apprehension for some time but was eventually arrested. Coleman is currently held in Fairfax on no bond. His preliminary hearing for his Arlington charge, grand larceny with intent to sell, is currently set for October 24, 2013.”
- “Howard Montgomery was stopped after an officer observed him riding one bike while rolling a second beside him. He admitted that the bikes did not belong to him. After further investigation, it was determined that these bikes were stolen from a secured bike cage in an apartment building. Montgomery is to be indicted on charges of possession of burglarious tools, grand larceny and grand larceny with intent to sell.”
- “Five juveniles involved with bike thefts from Thomas Jefferson Middle School have been identified and adjudicated. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered for all suspects. Four of the defendants were sentenced. One juvenile is still pending.”
In some of the cases, the bicycles were recovered and returned to their rightful owners. Police continue to ask people to register their bikes for this very reason.
“We encourage people to register their bikes because if there is a bike recovered, then it’s not a long process to figure out who it belongs to,” said police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Cyclists can register bikes online, and will receive a registration decal to place on the bike. Owners should also take a photo of their bicycle and record the serial number and any distinguishing features it may have.
Anyone who has had a bicycle stolen or who notices suspicious behavior around bike racks should call the Arlington County Police Department non-emergency number at 703-558-2222.
The sexual battery charge against Lt. Col Jeffrey Krusinski — the former chief of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch — has been dropped, but Arlington County prosecutors intend to charge him with regular assault instead.
Police arrested Krusinski in May after an incident that we’re told began near Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, and then carried over to a nearby parking lot. He is accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman he didn’t know.
At the time, Krusinski was chief of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assault, but he was removed from that position shortly after his arrest. According to the Air Force Times, a female two-star general now leads the branch.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said dropping the sexual assault charge is a procedural move. Prosecutors are seeking a grand jury indictment for the new assault charge on August 19.
The change means the case can now head to Circuit Court instead of General District Court. It prevents a potential extra step in the prosecution, since convictions in the lower court can be appealed to the Circuit Court.
Just as with sexual battery, a charge of assault and battery is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and carries similar maximum penalties — a fine and up to one year in jail. The main difference is that prosecutors do not have to make the case for lewd behavior or intent.
Krusinski’s attorney, Barry Coburn, released the following statement today:
One of the most critical tasks prosecutors perform is the exercise of prosecutorial discretion: deciding how a case should be charged. Here, the prosecutors in Arlington County have exercised their discretion with care and judgment. While we respectfully disagree with the decision to charge Lt. Col. Krusinski with any offense, and look forward to defending our client at trial, we very much appreciate the care and diligence with which these prosecutors reached the conclusion that a sex offense could not legitimately be charged in this case.
Charging decisions such as this one must be based on the facts and the law of each individual case, not on politics or the desire to have a “teachable moment” concerning issues such as sexual abuse in the military. It is noteworthy that the reason this case became highly publicized was the combination of Col. Krusinski’s job responsibilities in the Air Force and the fact that he initially was arrested for misdemeanor sexual battery. His name and photograph were in virtually every newspaper in the country for these reasons. Now a decision has been reached by careful, responsible prosecutors that that was not the correct charge. This sequence of events hopefully will, in the future, give all of us, particularly persons of great responsibility, pause before we make premature judgments about pending criminal cases before trial, particularly cases involving individuals who have devoted their entire professional lives to military service.
Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola has decisively won the acrimonious race for the 31st District state Senate seat. With all precincts reporting, Favola has captured 65 percent of the vote to Jaime Areizaga-Soto’s 35 percent. Favola will face a well-funded Republican challenger, Caren Merrick, in November.
Del. Adam Ebbin, meanwhile, has squeaked by Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka in the three-way race for the 30th District state Senate seat. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Ebbin has 39 percent of the vote to Kupricka’s 36 percent and Arlington school board member Libby Garvey’s 25 percent. Ebbin will face Republican hopeful Timothy McGhee in November.
Alfonso Lopez will be the 49th District’s next House of Delegates member, succeeding the victorious Ebbin. Lopez defeated Stephanie Clifford 66 percent to 34 percent with all precincts reporting. Lopez will be running unopposed in the fall.
Finally, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos will be getting a bigger office. Stamos handily fended off defense attorney David Deane in the race for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington. Stamos captured 82 percent of the vote to Deane’s 18 percent. Stamos does not have a challenger in the general election.
Arlington elections officials say that 10.3 percent of the county’s active registered voters cast a ballot during today’s election.
“Not so bad for [a] predicted slow primary day [with an] earthquake,” officials said via Twitter.
Here is the unedited response from Theo Stamos:
My name is Theo Stamos and I am running for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. For the past 25 years I have been on the front lines of the criminal justice system, beginning as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in 1987 and serving as Chief Deputy since 2002. I have prosecuted and supervised the prosecution of thousands of cases, always guided by the truth that the role of a prosecutor is to seek justice for victims and fairness for all.
I am honored to have the endorsement of my friend and mentor, Dick Trodden, our out-going CA, as well as the support of the Arlington Coalition of Police, the Falls Church Police Association and the Arlington County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. These dedicated public servants are the people who know my work best and see me in court every day.
My devotion to our community is a deeply personal one. My husband and I have been so fortunate to raise our two sons here. As a participant in Leadership Arlington, as board member of Offender Aid and Restoration, and as a member of the PTA at Arlington Traditional School, Swanson Middle School and Yorktown High School, I have developed a broad appreciation for the values of the community we call home.
Since announcing my candidacy last December I have knocked on more than 10,000 doors, introducing myself to voters, listening to their concerns and making the case for their support. In countless conversations I have been heartened and encouraged; heartened by the expressions of care and concern for our community, and encouraged to continue to fight for what is right for victims, witnesses, and criminal defendants.
During my tenure I initiated our office’s Domestic Violence Rapid Response Team to better coordinate our response to victims of domestic violence. I am also proud of our office’s role in starting “Second Chance,” a diversion and early intervention program for first-time youth drug and alcohol offenders set to begin this fall. I have been working with other community leaders to modernize our approach to drug possession cases. Using lessons learned elsewhere from the success of Drug Courts, we are working on an Arlington-specific model with the goal of fewer convictions, less incarceration, more treatment and less recidivism.
As Commonwealth’s Attorney I intend to expand our outreach to communities who may feel reluctant to report crimes. Our office speaks for all victims of crime no matter how those victims happened to arrive in Arlington. We will allow no language barrier, no cultural divide, no question of documentation to prevent victims from having their day in court to confront their assailant.
I am committed to diversity within our prosecutorial ranks. Although we do not currently have any bi-lingual assistant CAs, we have in the past and hope to have more in the future. But the ability to connect with witnesses and victims, earn their trust and make sure that they testify clearly and truthfully is not dependent on everyone speaking the same language. Compassion, empathy and trust are universal languages and are most prized in our office.
I am honored to serve the people of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. I ask for your support and for your vote Tuesday, August 23.