Virginians for Safe Communities (VSC) is the second organization to try to recall Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. Now, the organization wants an ethics investigation into the prosecutor, alleging misconduct in a August 9 letter to the Virginia State Bar (VSB).
“Mr. Descano, as the leader of the office of the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, has engaged in serious matters of professional misconduct that constitute a violation of the VSB’s Professional Guidelines,” the letter states.
The letter alleges that Descano hasn’t always provided evidence to the defense that could help defendants in at least two separate cases. In November, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Mann criticized prosecutors and police for not disclosing key evidence in a manslaughter case, according to The Washington Post. Mann wrote that police and prosecutors failed to disclose that a witness said the victim had a knife, and failed to send a knife found near the victim to a laboratory for analysis.
In July, Circuit Court Judge Brett Kassabian criticized prosecutors in Descano’s office for failing to promptly disclose exculpatory evidence, but Kassabian still declined to drop the charges brought by Descano’s office, according to WTOP. In that case, prosecutors were pursuing three misdemeanor assault and battery counts against police officer Tyler Timberlake.
The VSC’s letter says those incidents demonstrate a “pattern of misleading the Court.”
“This pattern suggests that this type of misconduct by the Descano–led Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office may be more widespread, since these only represent instances where the defendant’s counsel became aware of the misconduct, the judge publicly rebuked the Commonwealth, and the media reported the developments. Further, these actions suggest that Mr. Descano is derelict in his leadership and oversight of the office, negligently managing the case load and lawful procedures, and/or willfully abrogating the rights of defendants in his jurisdiction,” the VSC states.
VSB Deputy Executive Director Cameron Rountree told The Virginia Star that normally such complaints are confidential and could not confirm if the VSB had received the letter or what action it was taking. But he sent a link to a VSB page that says that the VSB does not open disciplinary cases against elected or appointed officials at the public’s request.
The VSB page states, “The VSB is sensitive to the possibility that a complaint might be motivated by opposition to the policies that public figures advocate. While we appreciate all information submitted to this office by concerned citizens, the disciplinary process is not a forum to review complaints against public figures involved in governmental affairs.”
The VSC letter is signed by President Sean Kennedy, Georgetown University Adjunct Professor of Law William Otis, conservative think tank Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith, and Fairfax-based government affairs leader Chuck Cunningham.
“The public record evidences Mr. Descano’s disregard for his Brady obligations as a prosecutor and his duty of candor to the court as a lawyer. Thus, as residents of Fairfax County and Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia we ask that the Virginia State Bar investigate Mr. Descano’s conduct,” they wrote.
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