Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

Data to Ponder

According to the websites of the State Compensation Board and the Department of Corrections, the starting salary for a correctional officer or deputy sheriff is $44,100.

Based on information submitted to the Department of Education by local school divisions, the starting salary for teachers in 34 school divisions in school year 2022-2023 was lower than $44,100.

Deja Taylor Had One Job: Stay Clean and Sober

by Kerry Dougherty

Good grief, lady. You had ONE job.

Just one.

Your assignment was to stay clean and sober for four months, but apparently Deja Taylor – the mother of the 6-year-old Newport News first grader who shot his teacher with his mother’s gun – couldn’t do that.

After pleading guilty in June to charges that she lied about being an illegal drug user on federal firearm forms and for unlawful use of a controlled substance while possessing a gun, Taylor tested positive for pot in July. Wait. There’s more. On August 26, according to WAVY-TV 10, she had cocaine and marijuana in her system. Both drug tests are awaiting confirmation.

Taylor also failed to take part in substance abuse treatment that was mandated by the court and she didn’t show up for scheduled drug tests, according to court documents. Continue reading

Virginia Deserves a Parole Board that Puts Public Safety First

Patricia West

by Kerry Dougherty

When Terry McAuliffe was governor he found a loyal Democrat lawyer to appoint to head Virginia’s parole board.

That was Adrianne Bennett, a failed candidate for the House of Delegates in 2011 and undoubtedly the most controversial parole board chair in Virginia history. She was a success if you believe, as McAuliffe apparently did, that the job of that board is to spring murderers and make Virginians less safe. Continue reading

All Hat, No Cattle

Governor Glenn Youngkin. Photo Credit: Associated Press

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In Texas, the phrase, “all hat, no cattle” refers to someone who is all talk with little substance. Governor Glenn Youngkin is in the running for one of those hats.

The latest “Team Youngkin” fund-raising scare e-mail deals with fentanyl.

It starts off by recounting the number of fatal overdoses in Virginia attributable to fentanyl. That is why, the Governor says, “I didn’t hesitate when Governor Greg Abbott asked for additional resources to assist in critical border security efforts in Texas. I deployed the Virginia National Guard, and 100 brave Virginians answered the call to serve and protect our Commonwealth by going to Texas and joining the mission to stop fentanyl from flowing unabated into America.”

It is closer to home that Youngkin emphasizes the real problem. “Unfortunately, our efforts to punish the criminals who sell deadly fentanyl in our neighborhoods have been blocked by the far-left in control of the Virginia Senate.” He is referring to the Senate killing his legislation (SB 1490) that would have made anyone distributing a substance containing more than two milligrams of fentanyl, without the person obtaining the substance knowing that it contained fentanyl, guilty of attempted first-degree murder. If someone died from using that substance, the distributor would be guilty of first-degree murder. Continue reading

Blue on Blue

Monica Lisle

Monica Lisle, a long-serving Alexandria police captain, has charged the city’s police chief with denying her a promotion to assistant chief by stacking the deck against her in favor of Black candidates in order to “fill certain unannounced racial quotas.”

As Lisle wrote in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last year, according to The Washington Post, “I believe that Chief [Donald] Hayes believes that diversity is specific to African Americans,” Lisle wrote in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year. “I am a member of at least three protected classes, as a gay, woman, over the … age of 40.”

“Had the process not been flawed like it was, she would have been promoted,” said Damon Minnix, president of the Alexandria chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, adding that police department morale has suffered as a result. At full complement, the Alexandria police are authorized to have 322 sworn staff. In March, according to The Patch, there were 70 vacancies. Continue reading

Broken Doorknobs, Broken Locks

Memorial to Jwanta Scarbor. Photo credit: The Virginian-Pilot

Last year Jwanta Scarbor, a resident of public housing in Norfolk, was found shot to death in her apartment. Now her mother has filed suit against the Norfolk Redevelopment and  Housing Authority on the grounds that it failed, despite repeated requests, to fix broken doorknobs, locks and windows.

“My family is destroyed,” Tawanda Scarbor told The Virginian-Pilot. “Literally destroyed.”

The killing remains unresolved, according to Norfolk police. There is nothing in the article to suggest that malfunctioning locks and doorknobs allowed the killer access he would not have been granted otherwise. Regardless, it is not unreasonable for tenants to expect landlords to maintain basic security features in proper working order.

It is entirely legitimate to ask why the Norfolk public housing authority did not, or could not, respond in a timely manner to requests for apparently simple repairs. This is not an isolated incident. Poor maintenance of public housing seems to be a systemic problem. Why is that? Continue reading

Leftist Media Canonizes Another Killer

by Kerry Dougherty

Ronald Albert Barnes.

That was the name of the Southampton County Correctional Center guard who died in March of 1975 after being beaten and stomped by two inmates, including convicted rapist Tony Lewis.

If you read Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot, maybe you were moved by the front-page valentine to “Tony The Tiger,” as he was affectionately known by his family, who are trying to get him out of prison after 50 years behind bars.

The story – “A Pursuit Of Freedom Blocked At Every Step” – is what journalists used to call a “Sunday thumb sucker,” a long-form piece dedicated to a heartwarming topic.

Perhaps you, too, read yesterday’s drivel about how this poor guy from Hampton – grew up fatherless in the projects, blah, blah, blah – and has been incarcerated since he was 16. His first conviction was for a 1973 rape (absolutely zero details on THAT crime) and later for his part in the murder of the prison guard, an escape attempt and other crimes associated with a deadly prison riot.

Inches and inches of ink about a killer. Yet the newspaper couldn’t be bothered to print the name of the man he murdered.

Color me unsurprised.

Let’s be honest, giving the dead man an identity might turn Tony the Tiger into Tony the Ruthless Killer and dilute the sympathy The Pilot is trying to gin up for the inmate. Continue reading

The Sorry State of the ACLU of Virginia

by Hans Bader

The communist activist Angela Davis advocated abolishing prisons in the U.S., while supporting the incarceration of political prisoners in totalitarian communist regimes overseas. The ACLU of Virginia has touted Angela Davis’s stances in the past, such as in an April 4, 2022 tweet  quoting Davis.

Now, the ACLU of Virginia has returned to promoting these extreme positions, in addition to new ones. In an August 7 post, the ACLU approvingly featured an image with the message “Abolish Prisons,” “Abolish White Supremacy,” and “No One Is Illegal On Stolen Land,” accompanied by a tweet agreeing with this sign, and saying “That’s right, NO ONE.”

We do not all live on stolen land, contrary to the claim made by some left-wingers. A great deal of land was voluntarily sold to settlers by Native Americans. Law professor Stuart Banner’s book How the Indians Lost Their Land explains this. Some land changed hands through “consensual transactions,” and other land through “violent conquest.”

Banner is a mainstream, well-respected academic at UCLA Law School who may have been surprised by what he discovered about the large scope of voluntary transfers of land from Native Americans to whites. But the large number of land sales by Native Americans makes sense because North America was a much emptier place after European diseases wiped out most of the Native American population, leaving many Native Americans with plenty of land even if they ceded some of it to white settlers.

The ACLU’s apparent call to “abolish prisons” is also misguided, because peer-reviewed academic studies show prisons prevent many violent crimes and property crimes. One such study is “The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons,” which found that reducing incarceration increased the crime rate. This article was published in the American Economic Review, which is a peer-reviewed journal. Continue reading

Nursing Homes – What Could Go Wrong?

Mt. Vernon Healthcare Center Alexandria

by James C. Sherlock

I have written a lot recently about staffing shortages in Virginia nursing homes and the Commonwealth’s national ranking near the bottom of the states for staffing measures.

It is appropriate to ask why that matters.

Federal analyses of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data offer the answer.

In proposing to adopt the Total Nursing Hours per Resident Day Staffing (Total Nurse Staffing) measure for the FY 2026 program year and subsequent years, the rule-makers offered this:

Staffing is a crucial component of quality care for nursing home residents. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between nursing home staffing levels and quality of care. The findings and methods of these studies have varied, but most have found a strong, positive relationship between staffing and quality outcomes.

Specifically, studies have shown an association between nurse staffing levels and hospitalizations, pressure ulcers, weight loss, functional status, and survey deficiencies, among other quality and clinical outcomes.

The strongest relationships have been identified for registered nurse (RN) staffing; several studies have found that higher RN staffing is associated with better care quality. We recognize that the relationship between nurse staffing and quality of care is multi-faceted, with elements such as staff turnover playing a critical role.

Remember, the surveys are conducted both for CMS certification and Virginia licensing by the Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) of the Virginia Department of Health.

I have always found that office to be staffed by exemplary public servants, even while there have never been enough of them.

But we’ll get specific about Virginia nursing homes and survey deficiencies as the answer to the question:

“What could go wrong?”

Continue reading

Understaffed Nursing Homes and the False Claims Act

by James C. Sherlock

Nursing home operators, paid by government insurance programs on a per diem basis for caring for their patients, make higher profits if they understaff than otherwise.

The less staff they have, the higher their operating margins.

The federal government, with much experience in such situations, tries to offset those incentives with disincentives. It thinks, reasonably, that patients should actually receive the care that is paid for with government insurance funds.

In Virginia, some senior members of the health committees of the General Assembly are in love with our nursing home operators, offering legislation as gifts. That love is requited in the form of unlimited campaign contributions from the operators.

Touching story.

This being Virginia, that is legal. And too common.

However, help for patients is available and very active on another front: fraud charges brought by states and the Justice Department in federal court.

The unanimous Supreme Court opinion in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016) • 195 L. Ed. 2d 348 Decided Jun 16, 2016 provided precedent for such filings under the False Claims Act.

The Court validated the government’s theory of law that a provider can be guilty of making a false claim based on the underlying representation that the care provided complies with the government Conditions of Participation.

Grossly understaffed nursing homes can be guilty of criminal or civil false claims or both by accepting payments for services which they do not provide or provide inadequately.

Both state and federal governments know exactly who those understaffed nursing homes are and have the payroll-based data to prove that some could not have provided it.

And they are taking the worst offenders to court. Continue reading

Miyares Loses in Court

Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Our Attorney General has taken his lumps in court recently.

First was a jury acquittal in a high-profile criminal case he engineered. Later, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled against an agency that had been administering a provision of the Code based on guidance from the Attorney General.

The first case was that of Wayde Byard, the spokesman for the Loudoun County Public Schools who had been indicted for lying to the special grand jury established by Miyares to investigate the school system’s handling of the notorious sexual assault cases. The trial jury took less than two hours to render a verdict of not guilty. Miyares’ spokesperson commented that “we are disappointed with the jury’s decision.” Byard had been on administrative leave without pay. Shortly after the verdict, the county gave him nearly $89,000 in back pay and he was back at his desk.

The second instance is more complex. It is based on statutory interpretation and can get a little tedious. It is this stuff that lawyers and legislative nerds love. Also, some background is needed to understand the case. So, bear with me a little while.

The case involves the changes in earned sentence credits enacted by the 2020 General Assembly. Continue reading

Corruption, Ignorance Turn Deadly in the General Assembly

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia Department of Health inspectors, on page 11 of 66 of a statement of deficiencies dated June 21, 2021, wrote of a gut-wrenching discovery.

They found an incontinent patient at Autumn Care of Suffolk, a stroke victim unable to talk, tied to her bed by a staffer. She was terrified and humiliated.

The investigation resulted in lots of finger pointing but failed to pinpoint responsibility. Adult Protective Services found that the patient had been abused. The facility promised better training.

Autumn Care of Suffolk last quarter offered 17 minutes of registered nurse (RN) time per resident per weekday vs. a national average of 39 minutes. It provided five minutes of RN staffing per resident per day on weekends vs. a 26-minute national average. It is currently open and accepting new patients.

This article is for that poor woman.

And it is for the nurses, heroines and heroes of the pandemic, who consider nursing a vocation as well as a job. There was a shortage of RNs going into the pandemic. It is worse now because of burnout. Continue reading

Mr. Saddam Salim’s Strange Acceptance of Political Endorsements

Saddam Azlan Salim

by Emilio Jaksetic

In the upcoming November 2023 election, the Democratic Party candidate for Virginia Senate District 37 is Saddam Azlan Salim. Salim won the Democratic nomination by defeating Chap Peterson in the June 20, 2023 primary.

A profile of Mr. Salim is available on Ballotpedia. A hypertext link in the Ballotpedia profile goes to Salim’s campaign webpage. Among those endorsements are three by progressive prosecutors: Commonwealth Attorneys Steve Descano, (Fairfax County), Buta Biberaj (Loudoun County), and Parissa Dehghani-Tafti (Arlington County/Falls Church). On the face of it, those endorsements reflect the traditional practice of candidates to solicit and accept endorsements in support of their campaigns. However, the endorsements by the three progressive prosecutors are a problem for Salim because he is running for a seat in the Virginia Senate.

Soliciting and accepting the endorsement of a particular person or group does not mean or imply that the candidate is in complete agreement with every act performed or statement made by the endorser. However, the three progressive prosecutors have made a point of claiming that their “criminal justice reforms” are good for Virginians and expressing their intent to continue pursuing them.

The endorsement of Salim’s candidacy by those three progressive Commonwealth Attorneys indicates the following: (1) those prosecutors believe or know he is sympathetic to their “criminal justice reform” efforts; and (2) they want voters to consider their endorsements as a reason for voting for Salim because they believe many voters are in agreement with their “criminal justice reform” efforts. Furthermore, Salim’s acceptance of their endorsements indicates he is sympathetic to, or in agreement with, the “criminal justice reforms” of the three progressive prosecutors.
Continue reading

Where Do Dems Stand on Civil Immunity for Law Enforcement Officers?

by James C. Sherlock

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Being a law enforcement officer is tough under the best of circumstances.

Do you think that exposure to losing your house and car in a civil suit for something you did in a split second to protect the public and yourself and did not have reason to know was against the law would deter you from a job in law enforcement?

Truth is, it would deter all of us.

Virginia Democrats in 2021 introduced legislation to eliminate under Virginia law a peace officer’s ability to offer an immunity defense in state courts against civil lawsuits for actions that violate constitutional rights:

A. Any law-enforcement officer, as defined in § 9.1-101, who, under color of law, subjects or causes to be subjected, including failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities granted to such person under the constitutions and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth, shall be liable to the injured party for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and equitable relief….

B. Sovereign immunity and any limitations on liability or damages shall not apply to claims brought pursuant to this section. Qualified immunity is not a defense to liability imposed by this section.

A 2017 per curiam (unanimous) opinion by the Supreme Court reiterated a long-existing legal standard that qualified immunity is an available defense for law enforcement officers unless there is “clearly established law giving each individual Officer fair notice that his particular conduct was unlawful.”

It is hard to imagine that the Supreme Court, unanimous there, would permit a state law that denied civil immunity without fair notice of the illegality of specific acts.

Regardless, under the 2021 Democratic bill in Virginia, officers were to be in jeopardy in civil suits whether or not they had fair notice that their actions, split-second or otherwise, were unlawful.  They were specifically to be required to judge the constitutionality of specific actions.

With a gun in their face.

It draws a very clear line for political debate. Continue reading

Nursing Shortages Require Better Oversight of Virginia Nursing Homes – Part Two – State Action Required

by James C. Sherlock

Patterns of understaffing, medical harm and abuse in nursing homes are traceable:

  • in some cases to a business model of understaffing to increase profits. Federal fines are built into the business models of the bad actors. Some of the worst post double-digit annual operating margins;
  • in some to other systemic chain-wide issues, perhaps financial instability; and
  • in yet others to local management incompetence and other site-specific issues.

Regardless of the reason, Virginia regulators and law enforcement agencies must execute the roles they are legally charged to perform.

State sanctions must be levied.

  • The Health Commissioner can block the admission of new patients until staff levels support them or shut down those facilities that do not meet standards over a long period of time;
  • The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) can suspend or halt Medicaid payments;
  • The Attorney General can prosecute for civil or criminal violations.

Enforcement will result in fewer, but better and safer options. Continue reading