Loudoun Board of Supervisors Criticizes Commonwealth’s Attorney for Handling of Domestic Violence Cases

Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj

 

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has decided to give Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj a smaller budget increase than requested amid concerns over high turnover in Biberaj’s office and her handling of domestic violence cases. In recent budget work sessions, supervisors cited a statistic that out of 735 cases, Biberaj’s office dismissed 491 cases. As an elected official, Biberaj herself is not under the authority of the board, but the county contributes a significant portion of her office’s budget.

Biberaj told the supervisors in a March 18 meeting, “Our office is all about community values. The people of Loudoun County voted a different administration into office so that we could do things differently. The old way of doing cookie-cutter things where were just processing people is no longer valid because ethics values show that that does not show value for our community.”

She said her goal was to allow people to remain in community, at work, and in their families as much as possible. She said that domestic violence cases range from pushing someone to violent beatings.

“It’s that full spectrum. We’re very fortunate in Loudoun County. We don’t have the significant harm ones,” she said. “A person that’s being physically violent, I assure you that those are being handled appropriately.”

Biberaj was elected in 2019 with the help of $861,039 in funding from a George Soros-connected PAC and is a signatory member of the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, a group of Commonwealth’s Attorneys who have pledged to not enforce certain laws including anti-abortion and drug laws.

That represents a new style of prosecution, according to Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Zach Smith, who told The Virginia Star in October, “[These new prosecutors] tend to view the criminal justice system as systematically racist. They believe there’s a massive incarceration problem a lot of the time, and frankly they just disagree with some of the laws that the state legislatures have passed.”

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd said in the March 18 meeting, “I received many mailings from Buta when she was a candidate. In not one of them did it say that she was looking to only prosecute or take to trial eight percent of the domestic abuse cases. And yet, when we look at the statistics being kept by the domestic abuse response team, 92 percent of these cases are not taken to trial. So, I’m very concerned that we’re seeing that happen.”

She said, “If we’re seeing in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office a shift away from criminal prosecution, especially in domestic abuse cases, violent domestic abuse cases, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office wants to move more towards counseling, which is what I heard in the last presentation and tonight, we have services already for counseling, mental health does a very good job.”

Biberaj said that prosecution is more than just taking cases to trial — it’s the whole process of examining cases and working with all parties involved to find the right outcome.

The supervisors asked Biberaj about high turnover in her office, and she replied that given the new administration combined with COVID-19, the turnover was not unusual. She said, “In essence, what we have done is we have built a whole new law firm.”

Chair Phyllis Randall said she had spoken to family services and other county departments.

“I’ve talked to our non-profits, especially the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, and the things that I am hearing do not comport with the things you are saying, most especially when it comes to domestic violence abuse and partner abuse,” she said. “In fact, the things that I am hearing, the letters I have, the emails I have, the text message screenshots I have would curl somebody’s toes to look at them. They are frightening in many many ways.”

While Randall and the other supervisors agreed that there was probably a need for more resources for the office, Randall moved to reduce the increase in funding and only create four new positions for Biberaj’s office, instead of the requested 12 positions. Randall also moved that the funding and positions would be frozen until Biberaj signed a cooperative agreement saying that she would follow the county’s personnel policies. The board approved Randall’s motions.

“I am a substance abuse mental health therapist, and my entire career has been with offender populations. That’s all I’ve done my whole life,” Randall said. “I know what I’m looking at, and I know with the previous administration, I never saw those things.”

“Since this office has come in, the number of victims, and I mean domestic violence victims, who have reached out to us,” she said, “has been bloodcurdling.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected] 
Photo “Buta Biberaj” by Buta Biberaj.

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