The Virginia Parole Board with Secretary Brian Moran in 2017..

by Brandon Jarvis

Virginia’s parole board is coming under fire again after a new report from a Richmond TV station showed that an inspector general allegedly omitted several important details when he released the results of his investigation into the Virginia parole board last year. The investigation was triggered by the release of Vincent Martin, a Richmond man that murdered a police officer 40 years ago.

Martin was released in the summer of 2020.

The report that was given to the media initially was only six pages and heavily redacted, but the TV station’s work this week shows that the original report had a draft that was twice as long.

The new information highlights instances where the former chair who is now a judge in Virginia Beach, Adrianne Bennett, asked at least two employees to falsify information.

From the WTVR report: “Westfall also wrote that in April, Bennett falsely told Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran that she had not advocated for Martin’s release. The report then stated Bennett told at least one parole board employee that she was going to purposely release Martin and certain other inmates near the end of her term because of the backlash those decisions would bring.”

The WTVR report also states that the current chair, Tonya Chapman, was also complicit with Bennett in violating multiple state codes and policies as well as the constitution of Virginia. Chapman became chair of the board on April 15, 2020.

The inspector general on this case, Michael Westfall, accused Chapman of violating state code in relation to false entries or the destruction of records by officers. Westfall also accused Chapman of violating an executive order that requires all executive branch agencies to cooperate with an inspector general investigation to the fullest extent.

The Virginia Mercury also reported that several new missteps that were previously unknown to the public are now coming to light. “In one case, a man convicted of killing his estranged wife in the mid-1980s in front of their two young children was granted geriatric parole on March 31 after being denied discretionary parole just two months earlier. The inspector general’s office found that the inmate never filed a petition for geriatric release and the Parole Board didn’t conduct a new interview with him, relying instead on the interview conducted during his prior, unsuccessful bid for parole. On Feb. 5, the victim’s mother received a notification that the Parole Board had declined to grant the inmate discretionary release. The next month, the board granted geriatric release but didn’t notify the mother until after the decision was made and the inmate’s release was imminent, a violation of a rule giving victims 60 days to provide input in geriatric release cases. The board never notified the victim’s daughter, the report says, even though she was registered in the state’s victim-notification system.”

The parole board members as well as the inspector general that investigated them were appointed by Governor Ralph Northam.

In an effort to get to the bottom of what happened to provide transparency to the public, Democratic state Senator John Bell (Loudoun) and Senator Bryce Reeves (Spotsylvania) announced on Wednesday night that they are asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate.

“On the floor of the Senate today, I asked my colleagues across the aisle to work with me on this important issue,” Reeves wrote in a press release Wednesday. “If you see a deficiency in the system, and you fail to correct it, then you set a new standard. “

Senator Bell added, “It is our duty to hold our systems to a higher standard. I’m happy to work with Senator Reeves in addressing these issues that are impacting our parole board.”

Governor Northam’s office has not released a statement on the news reports.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) called on Northam to answer questions on the matter. “The Northam Administration needs to tell us if they were involved in changing this damning report or covering up these criminal acts, and the Office of Inspector General needs to tell us why they hid these findings from the public,” Gilbert wrote in an announcement.

Gilbert then called on the parole board members involved to lose their job, or resign. “There is only one solution in situations where a public official has so grossly violated the public trust — that person must be discharged from that office immediately. If they have any honor, they will resign. Otherwise, they should be fired.”

The Office of the Inspector General released a statement saying this latest information was released without permission and they will be seeking out the person that leaked it.

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By vascope