Attorney General Mark Herring’s office announced that major international law firm Nixon Peabody LLP will investigate the Office of the State Inspector General’s investigation of the Virginia Parole Board. The firm is required to send a report on the investigation to leading Virginia elected officials from both parties by June 15, 2021.
“You and your firm are appointed as an independent third–party investigator for the purpose of conducting an independent, third–party investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General’s policies, process, and procedures employed during its investigation of the Virginia Parole Board’s handling of the Vincent Martin matter,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Erin Ashwell told Nixon Peabody Partner Travis Hill (pictured above) in a letter.
The appointment is the result of a $250,000 budget item requested by Governor Ralph Northam for an independent investigation.
Hill is one of three partners assigned to the investigation. Tina Sciocchetti and Adam Tarosky are also listed in Ashwell’s letter. All three partners are members of the Government Investigations and White Collar practice group at Nixon Peabody. According to their bios, they bring experience from time at the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the New York State Attorney General’s office. Their specialties include internal investigations, ethics and lobbying, and advocating for clients before inspectors general.
“In an effort to further ensure objectivity, the Office avoided contacting firms with strong Virginia–based connections,” Ashwell said in the letter.
The report will be considered a confidential work product of the Office of the Attorney General. During debate over Northam’s budget amendment, Republicans said the full report likely wouldn’t be publicly released or available through Freedom of Information Act requests. Nixon Peabody’s report of findings and recommendations will be addressed to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Delegates; Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the House of Delegates; President pro tempore; and the Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the Senate.
In 2020, an OSIG investigation found that the Virginia Parole Board had allegedly violated victim notification practices in its release of Martin. Multiple versions of the report leaked to the media, and Republican lawmakers called for an additional investigation into the parole board and other cases where similar problems were reported. Democratic leaders stood by the decision to parole Martin and called for an investigation into the OSIG investigation. Republicans say they want a special session with a special investigations committee with broad power to investigate multiple parole cases.
“The Inspector General’s report was filled with political bias and demonstrably incorrect legal and policy conclusions,” Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star earlier in April. “Parole and mandatory minimums are the Republicans’ Alamo against criminal justice reform. They just got the investigation they requested and now they are pushing the goalposts outside of the stadium.”
But Republicans said officials are more worried about the optics of the leaked report. Earlier in April, House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a press release,”After being fully informed that the Board violated Virginia law and disregarded the rights of victims and their families, the Administration’s concerns were limited to public disclosure of the information and the well-being of convicted cop-killer Vincent Martin. They never expressed interest in the merits of the Inspector General’s report, only in how the facts revealed by that report would make them look.”
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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 “Nixon Peabody” by Nixon Peabody LLC and photo “Travis Hill” by Nixon Peabody LLC.