Checking up on Steve Descano

Steve Descano. Commonwralth’s Attorney, Fairfax. Photo credit: WTOP

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Contributors and many readers of this blog have been highly critical of Steve Descano, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County.  They belittle him as being a Soros-backed, “woke” prosecutor, soft on crime. They seem to have missed Descano’s involvement in a recent high-profile case.

As described by The Washington Post, the defendant in the case had agreed to allow his home to serve as a delivery point for marijuana that was going to be sold by the victim. There had been a dispute between the defendant and the victim. When the victim knocked on the door of the defendant’s apartment, he sneaked out the back door, retrieved an AR-15 -style rifle from his car, and opened fire on the victim, killing him, and spraying bullets into adjacent occupied apartments.

The offender claimed that the victim had threatened to kill him and his family and he was protecting himself and them. A jury convicted him of second-degree homicide. A new trial was ordered because the jury had not been told that it could also consider a charge of manslaughter. A second jury also convicted him of second-degree murder.

The sentencing guidelines in the case called for a prison term of between 13 and nearly 22 years. The judge must have believed that the offender felt threatened by the victim. He imposed a sentence of 10 years in prison but suspended all of it. He also imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of three years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. (An offender gets credit toward his sentence for time spent in jail awaiting trial. The incident occurred in late 2020. Therefore, the offender has probably already served most, if not all, of that three years in jail.)

What was the role of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in this result? Descano’s office had asked for a sentence in the higher end of the guidelines range. Descano said he took that position because “we believed that was appropriate for the seriousness of this crime, and the dangerous, reckless actions of the defendant. In addition to the tragic murder of Mr. Sullivan, the defendant’s actions put the lives of everyone in the vicinity at risk.”

So much for being soft on crime. In case anyone is wondering, the judge cannot be considered a liberal progressive, either. He has been on the circuit court bench since 2008. During that time, he had to have been reelected by the General Assembly at least twice, during which Republicans were in control of at least one house and sometimes both houses.