Virginia’s Parole Board Squirts WD-40 on That Revolving Door

by Kerry Dougherty

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

A guy commits murder and is sent to prison for decades. Like everyone else in the pen he insists he’s innocent. Finally, a gullible, soft-on-crime parole board buys his sob story and turns him loose on society. Next thing you know the ex-con’s committed more felonies and is back behind bars.

This was an everyday story in Virginia prior to 1995 when the commonwealth abolished parole.

But ever since the Terry McAuliffe/Ralph Northam appointees took over the Parole Board, more and more violent criminals have found their way back onto the streets. Predictably, some are back behind bars, including at least one sex offender.

Looks like the Virginia Parole Board squirted that revolving prison door with WD-40.

This particular case involves Nathaniel Dale Pierce. According to a story in The Daily Press, in 1994, Pierce and several accomplices gunned down 19-year old Steven Anthony Smith of Newport News.

Pierce was sent to prison for 62 years. In 2018, the now-infamous Parole Board — the same one that released cop killer Vincent Martin and other murderers — set him free.

Chair Adrianne Bennett had apparently been swayed by Pierce’s innocent man performance.

The Press reports that “Bennett called the evidence of innocence ‘compelling’.”

“Parole is not intended to be a comment on innocence,” she said at the time. “But it’s difficult to disregard the evidence supporting a possible claim of innocence … The affidavits make it hard to turn a blind eye.”


Pierce was sprung by McAuliffe appointee Bennett and the rest of board in 2018. In January 2020 a coked-up Pierce was involved in what the newspaper described as a “cocaine-fueled car crash” when he plowed into a parked car so violently that he severed a telephone pole.

After the crash, Pierce tried to get away and assaulted two police officers.

He was convicted of felony cocaine possession, misdemeanor hit and run, DUI and two felony counts of assaulting a police officer, according to the newspaper.

Pierce thought he was getting off easy when the judge – in a moment of extraordinary generosity – said he’d ignore the 1994 murder conviction and sentence him as he would a first-time offender. That meant suspended time for all of the convictions except six months to serve on each assault charge.

In March, Pierce was wrapping up his year in jail when he got a surprise from the new chair of the embattled Parole Board which was making headlines for its inexplicable and dangerous decisions.

In a letter, Chair Tanya Chapman revoked Pierce’s parole and sent him back to prison.

Where he will stay until 2038.

Or until another bleeding heart Parole Board springs him.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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10 responses to “Virginia’s Parole Board Squirts WD-40 on That Revolving Door”

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

    “In a letter, Chair Tanya Chapman revoked Pierce’s parole and sent him back to prison.”

    So Kerry thinks this is the wrong thing to do, huh…?? Some serious mixed messaging here… that is except the standard partisan rants….

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’d be curious to hear from Dick on this since he seems to career knowledge of that area.

    1. In general, a person convicted of a felony is collaterally estopped from challenging the guilty verdict in subsequent legal proceedings — other than appeals from the conviction itself. Other tribunals or agencies routinely take official or judicial notice of a record of a felony conviction as proof of adjudicated guilt and refuse to let a convicted felon try to “relitigate” their guilt or innocence in other proceedings.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Thanks. Any idea how the Innocence Project “works”? Does it go back to the original court and conviction?

        1. I am not familiar with the details of how the Innocence Project carries out its work. There are two basic ways to proceed: (1) Pursue all available avenues of appeal in appropriate courts after a felony conviction; and (2) Seek a grant of clemency from a Governor (if felony conviction was in a State court) or from the President of the United States (if the felony conviction was in a Federal Court).

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Can a parole board act on the work product of the project on behalf of the Govt or some such?

          2. WayneS Avatar

            As far as I know, the Innocence Project uses method #1 almost exclusively.

        2. WayneS Avatar

          Try this:

          The FAQ at this link provide a pretty good overview. During my peripheral involvement with them on a case in Culpeper they struck me as left-of-center but honorable. To all appearances, they study each case very carefully before agreeing to represent a convicted person.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Thanks for the link.

            The basic FAQ does not seem to address the actual processes, so far in my reading.

  3. WayneS Avatar

    ““Parole is not intended to be a comment on innocence,” she said at the time. “But it’s difficult to disregard the evidence supporting a possible claim of innocence … The affidavits make it hard to turn a blind eye.””

    And yet, the parole board should ignore such affidavits and claims of innocence. They are not the inmates’ attorneys, nor are they judges or juries. Claims of innocence are what appeals are for (and Project Innocence, if they deem the case worthy).

    In my opinion, it is the parole board’s job to respect the decision of the judge and/or jury and assume the inmate is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. The board’s decision to parole an inmate should be based on whether they think the person has changed/improved enough to have earned early release, with the severity of the crime taken into account.

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