Buta Biberaj, Loudon County Commonwealth’s Attorney

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

One of the new Commonwealth’s attorneys in Northern Virginia has gotten into serious trouble.  Circuit Court Judge James Plowman, in a highly unusual move, has removed the office of Loudoun County Commonwealth’s attorney Buta Biberaj from the prosecution of a case.

In his order, Judge Plowman said that the prosecutor’s office had entered into a plea deal with a defendant without a “full review of the facts” of the case and was “deliberately misleading the court, and the public, in an effort to ’sell’ the plea agreement for some reason that has yet to be explained.”

Judge James E. Plowman, 20th Judicial Circuit, Loudoun County

In addition to removing and disqualifying Biberaj’s office from prosecution of the case, the judge rejected the plea agreement, appointed the Fauquier County Commonwealth’s attorney to prosecute the case, and recused himself from the case “unless the parties agree otherwise.”

The case involves a 19-year-old man charged with three misdemeanors (two counts of destruction of property and one count of providing false ID to law enforcement) and two felonies (burglaries).  The prosecution recommended a sentence of six months in exchange for guilty pleas.

As one justification for the plea recommendation, Biberaj explained that the two burglaries had happened within hours of each other.  In his order, Judge Plowman said that was correct with respect to the two burglaries included in the charge, but it was a “misleading representation”.  He went on to point  out, “The Commonwealth makes no mention of the instant offenses being two burglaries of a possible twelve burglary crime spree spanning four counties over 10 days.”  The judge also cited the prosecution for ignoring the defendant’s extensive juvenile record and recent confessions and guilty pleas to felony charges in other cases.

In her defense, Biberaj said that the defendant had made some “knucklehead decisions” and had been caught up in the wrong crowd.  She emphasized that the defendant had “acknowledged and was fully accountable for what his actions were.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares gleefully jumped into the fray.  In a letter to the court, he wrote, “it is clear from the Order that the Court has rightfully lost confidence in Ms. Biberaj” and “I wanted to offer to the Court the services of the Office of the Attorney General to either prosecute these cases or assist the Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in that prosecution.”

In a press conference, Biberaj responded to Miyares, “’Stay in your lane. Your lane is in Richmond. Your lane is being the Attorney General of Virginia. You are not the elected council attorney and definitely not for Loudoun County.”

Biberaj has appealed Judge Plowman’s order to the Virginia Supreme Court, contending that the judge does not have the authority to remove her office from the prosecution of a case in Loudoun County.

In the meantime, an advocacy group has filed an ethics complaint against Biberaj with the Virginia State Bar.

My Soapbox.  I understand and sympathize with Biberaj’s general desire to go easy on a young man who rashly made a “knucklehead” decision and owns up to it.  But she (or her assistant who initially tried the case) picked the wrong defendant as a candidate for restorative justice.  Based on the judge’s description of the defendant’s record, this guy is a serial thief.  The irony is that, if she really wanted to help this guy to mend his ways, it would have been better to have recommended a sentence of at least two years so that he could be transferred to the Department of Corrections (DOC), which has some programs designed to address his criminal tendencies.  A six-month sentence would have been served in the Loudoun County Jail.  Generally, defendants who serve all their time in jail, rather than in DOC facilities, have a much higher record of recidivism.

The bigger problem for Biberaj and her office is that she has lost the confidence of the judge.  No lawyer or prosecutor wants to get on the bad side of a judge.  Judge Plowman’s order is damning, pulling no punches with conclusions like this:  “The representations contained here are drafted to mislead the reader and lack the appropriate level of candor with the court required of Virginia’s attorneys.” (Emphasis in original.)  The text of the order can be found here.

One does not pick a fight with a judge, especially one that you will have to work with over the next three years.  Such a fight cannot be won.

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24 responses to “Picking the Wrong Fight”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Hmmmm… almost immediately Steve Kennedy and Ian Prior each filed ethics complaints in response. It is almost like Plowman is coordinating with them… that can’t be… can it…??

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      and the AG… gonna be some scrutiny on all players.

      Judges have a lot of power but imagine for most prosecutions the Judge gets directly involved in a way that he left grounds for a defense appeal due to the judge taking over prosecution.

      The judge cannot and should not intervene on EITHER side’s role and presentation.

      Yes, he ought to recuse himself because if this kid (who is likely guilty as hell) gets a good lawyer, there’s probably going to be some actions that affect the judge also.


      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Might have to file a FOIA request…

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Get the kid’s name and a geneology chart.

      2. In the third paragraph, Dick Hall-Sizemore refers specifically to that portion of the Judge’s order in which the Judge recused himself from the case “unless the parties agree otherwise.”

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          yes. And he did that IMHO because he KNOWs he’s out over his skiis and no defense attorney worth his/her salt is going to let this Judge’s behavior go unchallenged.

          No judge should intervene to the level this Judge did IMHO. The only way he gets away with it is if the kid does not get a capable lawyer for his defense.

      3. When a judge rejects a plea agreement they must recuse themselves from further proceedings on that same matter pursuant to Rule 3A(c)(5) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Strange hill on which to die. Miyares clearly has nothing to do, but then jackals be jackals.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Why do you despise and disparage successful Hispanics like Jason Miyares? You are obviously a racist living in a structurally racist state.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Jackals come from Spain? Funny, thought he was from Normay.

      2. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        He’s just an overall bigot. Unless a BIPOC believes what he believes he’s against them.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Kid’s a chip. Something bigger in the line someplace. How many XBoxes can he use? Someone influential connected somehow. Nephew? This is Virginia. Nobody risks anything on just principle; that’s not the Virginia Way.

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    One of Bloomberg’s darlings, I presume? Yes, a fairly big deal when a judge accuses the county prosecutor’s office of lying, in a formal order. Next stop, Virginia State Bar office of professional standards?

    1. James Kiser Avatar
      James Kiser

      She is a Soros darling. He donated approx 900K to her campaign. Crime is rampant in Loudoun.

  5. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    This was an extremely fair article, with maybe one cheap shot – about Miyares “gleefully” jumping in.
    Not sure I’m wild about the Bar complaints, but it might be necessary because it is what the Left does (except there might be legitimate grounds to do this). In the sane world I grew up in, where I wanted to be a lawyer, and when my Dad was President of the State Bar, Atticus Finch doing the hard right thing and taking unpopular cases was the high standard. Now Leftists use the Bars/Licensing/accreditation agencies to stifle dissent – and it is WRONG. Disagree with us and we’ll use the processes we control to destroy your ability to earn a living practicing your craft. Sounds fair, right? Sounds like confident you could win the argument? Or that you know you’d lose so you shut the critic up? But the only way the Left can win is to lie, so they must suppress free speech and censor. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. A lot of bad things happen to destroy the narrative, but people don’t get to hear about it…
    Hey, did you hear about the black man killing his white ex girlfriend, who was pregnant by another man? Cut off her head…also killed the clump of cells. And did you hear about the black on black violence happening in all the Dem hellhole cities? So…are the black killers of other blacks white supremacists? Please help me understand…

  6. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Great piece. Plea deals are a daily and common practice in VA courts resting upon prosecutorial discretion. Someone’s ox may have been gored to contribute to this unusual situation. Leave it to commenters to view through the left/right political prism.

  7. vicnicholls Avatar

    Anyone who goes after with everything in the book, a father protecting his daughter after she’s been anally raped, by an air breather that had done the same thing before but was moved around, should have had worse done to them but definitely should have been removed at that point. No discussion. All this “justice” garbage is nothing but allowing criminals first, victims last, and the govt. making more attempts after that to destroy and make a mockery of rule of law and honor.

  8. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    Excellent post.

    Malfeasance by a Commonwealth’s Attorney in a case in circuit court is indeed “a wrong fight” and a fraught one.

    Code of Virginia § 24.2-233. (Effective until January 1, 2024) Removal of elected and certain appointed officers by courts.

    “Upon petition, a circuit court may remove from office any elected officer or officer who has been appointed to fill an elective office, residing within the jurisdiction of the court:

    – 1. For neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office;”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      let me help with the FULL cite:

      Upon petition, a circuit court may remove from office any elected officer orofficer who has been appointed to fill an elective office, residing within the jurisdiction of the court:
      The petition must be signed by a number of registered voters who residewithin the jurisdiction of the officer equal to ten percent of the totalnumber of votes cast at the last election for the office that the officerholds.

  9. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Plowman’s Revenge! Judge James Plowman is the former CA of Loudoun. Known to be a tough prosecutor and was elected/reelected many times for it. His handpicked successor Nicole Wittman lost to Buta, who was backed by the Soros $900,000 campaign donation. Buta has established a progressive soft on crime reputation. I think she is in way over her head. Wittman was the deputy CA for many years. She had the institutional knowledge to get the job done. Now Wittman works for Miyares. Loudoun has become a cesspool of one progressive disaster after another. I don’t even know the land of my birth anymore.

  10. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

    I’ve practiced before the FCC for more than 40 years and regularly since the fall of 1984. The most important things any attorney can do is tell the truth and, if something is later found to be incorrect, correct it. Any holder of any FCC authorization or regulated entity that violates a rule is much better off by self-reporting the violation. Candor is essential.

    It appears that the Commonwealth Attorney failed to act with the candor required by law and ethical standards. She appears to have received what she deserved. The judge’s recusal seems appropriate as well. As far as the bar complaint is concerned, that’s up to the Virginia Bar and, ultimately, the courts.

  11. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “His handpicked successor Nicole Wittman lost to Buta, who was backed by the Soros $900,000 campaign donation.”

    An act of simple political spite. Sounds about right for Conservative judges these days.

  12. The last sentence of this article is spot on. Rule number 1 for trial work, never anger the judge. Having been a criminal defense attorney for thirteen years, in a prior life, (in a different part of the state), I can tell you there is more to this story. I can’t tell you what the rest of the story is, but experience has taught me that there is more going on under the surface of this highly irregular sequence of events. According to the article the Defendant, Mr. Valle, had gone on a 12 count burglary spree. That fact alone should tell the reader, the defendant most likely has a significant drug problem. When people characterize “low level” drug offenses when they discuss criminal justice reform, they forget that the people purchasing these drugs have to have money to do it and frequently some of the customers of these low level drug offenders, resort to theft and burglary as a means of getting their drugs. The twelve burglaries occurred in 4 different jurisdictions. This means 4 different sentencing events. There used to be a glitch in the sentencing guidelines (i’ve been out of the criminal law game for a while) where the Defendant ran a substantial risk of receiving more time if he committed his crimes in multiple jurisdictions (guidelines recommending approximately 59-65 months per jurisdiction, looks like he’s already pulling 3 years 7 months for his 3 burglaries in Faquier) vs. committing the exact same crimes in one jurisdiction (guidelines would probably recommend approximately 89 months).
    When you are thinking about “time to serve” and the correlation of “rehabilitation”, 7 years is the magic threshold. Anything more than 7 years the individual is less likely to reform. There are a lot of factors for this, but Moore’s Law transistors/technology capabilities double every two years, has something to do with it. The world the inmate returns to is much different than the one he left. So if you’re going to sentence someone to more time than 7 years the reason cannot be to “reform him”. There are other reasons for incarceration, deterrence (which I never found compelling) or punishment (which can certainly be compelling depending upon the facts and circumstances).
    His attorney most likely was trying to package the sentences amongst the various jurisdictions either with agreements (plea agreements) to have the time run concurrent with the other jurisdictions or to piecemeal the sentences together so that his client receives a sentence that coincides with it occurring in one jurisdiction (i.e. one sentencing event).
    If I had to guess a factor that contributed to the judges decision was that on March 29 he had requested Ms. Biberaj come and address the courts concerns when the case came back before him. She declined to do so (please refer back to rule number 1).
    I doubt the ethics complaint will go anywhere. History has shown that the bar for prosecutorial ethical conduct is low.

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