Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

Who Killed Barbara Jean Monaco?

by Kerry Dougherty

I was alone in the newsroom on that August day in 1985. It was lunchtime and the editor’s phone was ringing incessantly.

“Dougherty. Virginian-Pilot, Ledger-Star,” I said, reciting the five-word greeting I always used because I thought it made me sound like a hard-nosed reporter.

“Hello,” began a polite woman on the other end of the phone. “My name is Pauline Monaco. I was wondering if the newspaper would consider writing another story about my daughter, Barbara Jean. She disappeared in Virginia Beach seven years ago. Your newspaper wrote a lot about her at the time.”

I’d arrived at The Pilot just the summer before that fateful call. I’d never heard of this Monaco girl. I promised her mom I’d dig out the files and get back to her.

Within a few hours of poring over yellowed clips and staring at the face of a cute teenager I had a new goal: I wanted to find out who killed this 18-year-old from Connecticut. Continue reading

The Tell Tale Heart: Racism in Richmond Medicine

By Peter Galuszka

On Saturday, May 25, 1968, the Medical College of Virginia, now part of Virginia Commonwealth University, made medical history.  A surgeon recruited from Stanford University a couple of years before successfully transplanted the heart from one middle-aged man to another.

MCV officials in Richmond officials were ecstatic. Organ transplants were a hot, fairly new surgical procedure. Once stuck in the junior varsity leagues of medical training and research, MCV was basking in glory from media coverage.

There was one peculiarity that no one seemed to notice. The name of the heart donor was missing. As it turned out, the donor was Bruce Tucker, a Richmond Tucker happened to be African-American.

Tucker had suffered a serious brain injury from a fall the day before. He was taken to MCV. Hospital officials made a perfunctory search for his relatives. Tucker’s brother was desperately looking for him and his business card was in Bruce’s pocket. No one found it.

So, after Bruce was pronounced dead, his heart was removed and placed in the chest of Richard G. Klett, a white business executive from Orange. This shocking story is well documented in a highly readable book by Richmond author and journalist Chip Jones that has been just published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Tucker’s brother finally located hospital officials who started talking about an autopsy and that he needed to find a funeral director. Continue reading

Bill Would Release Inmates Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s legislature has a good chance of releasing many prison inmates guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In its special session this August, legislators plan to pass Senate Bill 5034, which would shorten many inmates’ sentences by increasing the number of credits they receive for good behavior while in prison. The bill would not apply to people who commit rape or murder, but it would benefit inmates who committed many other serious offenses: involuntary manslaughter and other crimes such as drunk driving, home invasions, and assaults that injured people but were not intended to kill or maim. It would apply even to inmates whose crimes are part of a long pattern of criminal activity. So, career criminals could be released — like the habitual drunk driver who kills someone after driving drunk many times, or the career thief who steals millions of dollars.

Right now prison inmates in Virginia who avoid major misbehavior receive good-behavior credits. The credits give them a 4.5 day reduction in their sentence for every 30 days in which they behave. For the majority of Virginia inmates, Senate Bill 5034 would increase that reduction. For many, that reduction would eventually rise to “one day for each one day served” — nearly seven times the current rate. (In the first year of such good behavior, they would receive up to 13 days reduction in their sentence for every 30 days served, triple the current reduction; in the second year of such good behavior, they would receive up to 16 days off for every 30 days served; in the third year, up to 20 days off; in the fourth year, up to 25 days off; and in the fifth and any consecutive year thereafter, they would get up to a full day off their sentence for each day served.) Continue reading

Make It Easier to Remove Bad Cops

by James A. Bacon

The overwhelming majority of Virginia policemen and deputies are good people doing a creditable job under often-trying circumstances. But not all. Every profession has its bad apples. And in Virginia, state law makes it impossible to strip officers of their certification unless they have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors. Even then, some manage to stay on the job.

The Virginian-Pilot provides a list of convicted criminals who still have police certifications. including:

  • A former Hampton detective who pleaded guilty in federal court to providing a local drug dealer with information while working as a narcotics detective.
  • A former Henrico County sheriff’s deputy who pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with an inmate.
  • A former school resource officer in Bedford County who was initially charged with abducting a teenage girl and taking her to Kentucky. He pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent liberties with a minor.
  • A Dinwiddie sheriff’s deputy who was found guilty of assault and battery after he pulled over his ex-fiancé and forced her to the ground and pepper sprayed her.

Continue reading

Big Prison Releases Likely as Legislators Exploit Pandemic

by Hans Bader

With the public distracted by the pandemic, Virginia’s liberal legislature is likely to pass laws that would release many prisoners. A special legislative session begins on August 18, to address criminal-justice and COVID-19 issues. The Democratic Caucus has agreed to expand good-time credits for prisoners, effectively shortening their sentences. Parole would be reinstated in Virginia, if legislation proposed by state Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has his way. Virginia largely abolished parole in 1995, but Edwards, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, would not only reinstate it, but apply parole retroactively to people already convicted of crimes. Legislation proposed by Sen.John Bell, D-Chantilly, would expand geriatric parole for inmates who have committed any type of crime, except those who have committed Class 1 (capital) murder.

Cumulatively, these bills would result in shorter average sentences for inmates. Shorter sentences can lead to an increased crime rate, while longer sentences tend to reduce the crime rate. The National Bureau of Economic Research has a web page titled “Sentence Enhancements Reduce Crime.” It discusses how California’s Proposition 8 reduced crime by keeping “repeat offenders” off of the streets. According to the study it cites, “Because convicted criminals were serving longer sentences, years after the law’s change they were still locked up, rather than out on the streets committing crime.” Murderers sometimes commit murder again after being released from prison, even those released from prison at an advanced age. Continue reading

COVID Workers Comp On House Democrat Bill List

By Steve Haner

The coming Special Session of the General Assembly will be narrowly focused but filled with controversy, based on the legislative wish list just released by House of Delegates Democrats. Only two bills listed fall outside of the major categories of “COVID-19 Relief” or “Criminal Justice and Police Reform.”

Under the heading “COVID Relief,” the Democrats wish to reopen their drive for employee paid leave and. as predicted. want to designate COVID-19 as a workplace disease.

The Senate Democrats have their own list, released in June and reiterated in a more recent news release. The release claims that one of the bills is ready for public viewing, but provides no link and the bill mentioned is not yet available through Legislative Information Services. Neither caucus has yet revealed any thoughts on how to amend the state budget, a task where Governor Ralph Northam naturally takes the lead.

Here is the list from the House Democratic Caucus, with some thoughts following:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
  • Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
  • Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
  • Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
  • Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.

Continue reading

The Tide of Protests Has Crested

Judging by the number of local requests for state assistance, the George Floyd-inspired protest movements are losing momentum. This chart documents the number of incidents since Governor Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency “in response to widespread First Amendment protests and civil arrest.”

The chart comes from a euphemistically named “First Amendment Events” dashboard maintained by the Virginia Emergency Support Team, the outfit that mans the Virginia Emergency Operations Center. (The chart labels are is confusing. The “June” label appears to mark the end of the month, not the beginning.)

Continue reading

Systemic Racism? What’s That?

By Peter Galuszka

At Bacon’s Rebellion there’s a constant, grating mantra debunking the concept that the U.S. has a serious problem with “Institutional” or “Systemic” Racism.

Slavery? Jim Crow? Irrelevant! We’re treated to commentary after commentary that Blacks just need to try harder. They are lazy. They do not support family values. They get too much wasted money in school spending and health care. Their constant abuse by law enforcement is imaginary. Black Lives Matters is a hateful, racist movement. BLM jeopardizes our values. Students interested in the movement were not “indoctrinated” enough. It’s bad enough if it comes up in public schools, but let BLM come up at a toney private institution in a wealthy, mostly White suburb, then it is a blood libel against every private school headmaster in the country.

For a partial list of blog postings with ideas, please see the URLs at the end of this column.

Ok. So what? Well, this morning I saw a small story in The Washington Post that shocked me since it went right to the heart of Institutional and/or Systemic Racism. If you still don’t believe it exists, read on. Continue reading

Justice at Last for Rojai Fentress

by James A. Bacon

It would be entirely understandable if Rojai Fentress were angry and embittered by the miscarriage of justice that convicted him of a 1996 murder and kept him imprisoned until July of this year. But in a recent Encorepreneur Zoomcast, he expressed nothing but joy at his new-found freedom, gratitude toward those who had fought to liberate him, and enthusiasm for the new life that awaited him.

Fentriss and Deirdre Enright, a University of Virginia law school professor with the Innocence Project, described the flawed investigation, trial and conviction of the 16-year-old Fentress for the slaying of a white addict in a drug deal gone bad. He spent the next 24 years rotating through more than a half dozen institutions in the state prison system before establishing his innocence and winning a pardon.

When asked what it would take to compensate him for his experience, the gentle, sweet-tempered Fentress said, “I don’t regret a thing. I don’t think God makes mistakes.” He grew up in a tough neighborhood where many of his friends ended up dead. “The worst thing that happened to me turned out to be the best thing that ever happened.”  Continue reading

Meanwhile, In the Capital of the Confederacy (of Dunces)…

Assault rifle near Lee Monument uncovered by Richmond police Thursday.

by James A. Bacon

Coincidence or not? You decide.

First this: After weeks of a hands-off policy, Richmond police moved July 30 to enforce state laws and city ordinances in what had been a law enforcement-free zone around Lee Circle. An amorphous band of left-wing activists and radicals had seized the circle, where the graffiti-defaced statue of Robert E. Lee still stands, and ran it as a leaderless collective. They set up tents, took electrical power, engaged in commerce without permits, displayed videos on the monument base, and played loud music.

When RPD officers removed illegal items, said Chief Gerald M. Smith in a prepared statement, they were assaulted, suffering minor injuries. Pepper spray was deployed, a “conducted electrical device” (stun gun) deployed, and two individuals were arrested and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.

Then this: The following day, July 31, Chief Smith assigned police to a security detail for Mayor Levar Stoney, citing “serious, credible, and ongoing threats to Mayor Stoney.” No details of the threats were provided. Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan said that the mayor had traveled to hundreds of public and private events in the past without police protection. However, “recent events have made it clear that we are now in different times.” Continue reading

Big Problems with Dems’ No-Harm-No-Foul Assault Law

Richmond mob. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, has a point: Virginia needs to reform its law declaring that any “assault” on a law enforcement officer be treated as a felony. It is absurd that people are charged with felonies, as has happened in Virginia, for throwing onion rings and brownies, spilling water on shoes, or bumping a school resource officer while trying to get to class. Clearly, the law has been applied too broadly. Surovell and other Senate Democrats propose making it a felony to assault a law enforcement officer only if the victim experiences a visible injury.

Just one problem: The proposal does not take into account the tactics of protesters who have perfected the art of “non-violent” violence.

How would Surovell’s proposal treat the intentional aiming of  lasers for the purpose of blinding police officers?

How about throwing bags of urine and feces?

How about attempting but failing to injure a police officer by throwing rocks? Continue reading

About those Boogaloo Boys…

Hawaiian-shirt clad Boogaloo boy Mike Dunn addressing a crowd July 4th. “We don’t do that Nazi s***!” Source: Twitter.

by James A. Bacon

After a small riot last weekend that resulted in the torching of a dump truck, dumpster fires, shattered windows, and two dozen arrests, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney blamed… white supremacists.

“Last night shows that the real hate comes from the racism that is still very much alive in our commonwealth,” Stoney said in a press conference. “And some have used this moment to still express that hate.” Police Chief Gerald Smith confirmed that a few white men in Hawaiian shirts — an emblem of the so-called boogaloo movement, which incites violence to accelerate society’s plunge into civil war — were spotted in the crowd. Smith did allow for the fact that others among the rioters were involved with or influenced by the left-wing antifa movement.

Just one problem with Stoney’s narrative: He has no direct evidence showing that white supremacists organized the protest, encouraged violence, or participated in property damage. That’s the conclusion of Graham Moomaw with The Virginia Mercury, a left-leaning online publication. Moomaw and the Mercury deserve credit for publishing a well-researched article that runs counter to the liberal/progressive narrative. My esteem for the publication has increased a notch. Maybe two notches. Continue reading

Stop Tolerating the Intolerable

by Kerry Dougherty

Have we gotten to the point where mobs of anarchists can rampage through Richmond as they did last weekend, setting fires and assaulting police officers and firefighters while the governor, the attorney general and others basically shrug?

I can answer that: Yes. That’s exactly where we are.

Last weekend’s riots in Richmond drew national news attention. But little interest from state officials.

In a blistering editorial,“Where Is The Leadership?”The Richmond Times-Dispatch demanded to know how much longer these insurrections would be tolerated.

“Let us be clear: Saturday night’s violence was a planned riot,” they began.

The editors are correct. Have a look at the flier on social media asking people to meet at 9:30 p.m. Saturday to “eff” things up: Continue reading

Bacon Bits: And in More Riot-and-Protest News…

Image credit: Progress-Index

Support the blue. Here’s a story covered by the (Petersburg) Progress-Index but ignored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia’s newspaper of record for left-wing causes): Several hundred people gathered in Chesterfield County to support the blue. Remarkably, no rocks were thrown, no windows broken, no cars or buildings torched, and no one was arrested.

Crying Wolf. Up in Alexandria, a group of about 30 assembled Sunday morning assembled in front of the house of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to protest the detention and removal of demonstrators in Portland, Ore., by federal officers, reports the Washington Post. The peaceful protesters — these actually were peaceful — were joined by some of Wolf’s neighbors. Wolf himself was nowhere to be seen, but another group of neighbors lined his lawn with tiny American flags and planted handmade signs saying, “Thank you for your service.”

Wokeness won’t save you from the mob. Meanwhile, Virginia Commonwealth University administrators have learned that no matter how woke you are, you can’t buy off the mob. VCU has gone further than any other higher-ed institution in Virginia to embrace social justice principles, but the university suffered more than $100,000 in damage from 80 windows broken by a predominantly white mob bent on protesting the police and creating mayhem Saturday night. Continue reading

Yeah, Antifa in Richmond Is Real. Even the Mayor Admits It.

by James A. Bacon

Conservatives have been mocked for suggesting that “Antifa” members have numbered among protesters roiling Virginia the past two months, but yesterday Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, with Mayor Levar Stoney at his side, said the police believe that Antifa and individuals influenced by Antifa participated in the predominantly white mob action that led to vandalism, arson and assaults on police Saturday.

To be sure, Stoney contended that white supremacist “boogaloo boys” were spearheading the event with the intent of discrediting peaceful protesters, according to this Blue Virginia summary. But he did not contradict Smith’s assessment that Antifa was involved.

Smith said he believes that the flyer promoting the demonstration (displayed above) originated from outside the Richmond region, as did some of the protesters arrested during the mayhem. Richmond police are conducting an investigation into the origins of the event.

Stoney’s reaction to the event is interesting in two ways. Continue reading