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Emails between a special prosecutor and the Colonial Heights City Attorney show that the investigation into former Police Chief Jeff Faries resulted in no charges due to a delay in reporting the incident to police, not a lack of evidence. Faries resigned from his position earlier this year amid allegations of “inappropriate behavior and interactions in an off-duty capacity.” Faries was a coach on the high school softball team at the time.
According to the special prosecutor assigned to the case, Lynchburg’s Commonwealth Attorney Bethany Harrison, the allegations occurred between January 2021 and May 2021. The statute of limitations for these specific charges is one year, meaning charges cannot be pressed more than a year after the alleged incident occurred.
According to Harrison, a member of the Colonial Heights City Council first contacted Virginia State Police about the alleged incident on March 2, 2022. Police then investigated the allegations throughout the month of March. The Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office assigned Harrison as the special prosecutor on May 17, 2022, and she first met with a special agent from VSP on May 31, 2022. By this time, the one-year statute of limitations on charging for these allegations was up, Harrison says. However, responding by email to questions from Virginia Scope on Thursday, Harrison noted that her documents show that Colonial Heights Public Schools officials were notified of the allegations a year earlier in May 2021.
Colonial Heights Public Schools Superintendent William Sroufe told Virginia Scope that he learned of the allegations in February of 2022 and that Faries resigned from his position as a coach with the public schools on Feb. 8, 2022.
News did not break until March 3, 2022 that Colonial Heights officially requested an investigation by Virginia State Police “into allegations of inappropriate behavior and interactions in an off-duty capacity.” It was also announced on that day that Faries was placed on administrative leave from his job as police chief by the city manager. Faries officially retired as police chief on March 31, 2022.
Virginia Scope reached out to Colonial Heights City Manager Douglas Smith Thursday for comment on this story. He referred questions to Harrison’s office.
According to documents obtained by Virginia Scope using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Harrison sent a letter to a member of the Colonial Heights City Council on Sept. 12 of this year explaining why she is unable to press charges against Faries for certain allegations.
“Because of the delay in reporting these matters to law enforcement for a criminal investigation, we are beyond the statute of limitations to charge the applicable misdemeanor(s) from these events,” Harrison wrote in the letter. “If further evidence is developed, we can re-open this matter and may be able proceed with select misdemeanors as certain sexual offenses committed against a minor may be prosecuted up to 5 years after the minor reaches the age of 18 years old.”
Harrison does not say the specific charge or charges she was investigating. “I looked into the case to determine if any felony offenses applied or if the evidence rose to the level of probable cause for select misdemeanors that have a longer statute of limitations. I found that the evidence was not sufficient for one of those criminal offenses,” Harrison said in a statement to Virginia Scope Thursday.
On Sept. 19, 2022, at 12:08 pm, Colonial Heights City Attorney Hugh Fisher asked for clarification from Harrison over email. This interaction was also obtained by Virginia Scope through a FOIA request.
“Thank you for sending Dr. Sroufe the attached letter. However, on behalf of Dr. Sroufe and the City of Colonial Heights, I respectfully request the following clarification to your letter,” Fisher wrote in an email to Harrison. “It appears that you are saying that there is evidence that former Chief Faries committed a misdemeanor or misdemeanors but that the statute of limitations has expired, thus foreclosing your office from prosecuting him for those crimes. Is that what you are saying?”
Harrison responded two minutes later. “Your interpretation is correct.”
Harrison also told Virginia Scope that her office now considers this case closed.
After denying having any knowledge of the allegations being reported to school officials in May 2021, Sroufe said that he cannot comment on personnel issues. “It’s a personnel issue, I can’t comment at all.”
*Virginia Scope has submitted several new FOIA requests to various offices and departments to continue the investigation into this story. If you have any knowledge of the events that transpired around this story since January of 2021, please feel free to reach out by email: [email protected].
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