Danville woman files lawsuit against attorney and sheriff's department

Marsha Pritchett claims evidence proving her innocence was deleted

DANVILLE, Va. – A woman in Danville is suing the city's commonwealth's attorney and the sheriff's department after she says evidence was deleted from her cell phone.

Marsha Pritchett claims she brought the phone to the courthouse where it was taken by a deputy, but when she got it back the video that could prove her innocence as well as the rest of her photos had been deleted.

Pritchett stands accused by her neighbor of hitting their car with a rock and causing more than $1,000 in damage, an accusation Pritchett said a video would have shown is untrue.

"It would have shown, first of all, that I never left my porch, second of all that I never threw a rock," Pritchett said.

Through a FOIA request, Pritchett obtained security camera footage that shows her coming into the courthouse on Aug. 7. She says the deputy at the door asked her to turn over her phone. When Pritchett handed off her cell phone to the deputy, she never expected that it would end up in the hands of the commonwealth's attorney, who she says had a motive to delete the evidence it contained.

She was hoping to use the video on her phone as evidence upon appeal in circuit court, but then a deputy gave her phone to the commonwealth's attorney.  It was then she claims, that her video disappeared. The security camera footage shows the handoff following Pritchett's general district court appearance, where she lost after the judge didn't allow the phone video to be presented.

"This is somebody that's trying to destroy my life, that's trying to put me in jail or make me pay a fine or make me pay for something that I didn't do, so why would he give my phone to the commonwealth's attorney?" Pritchett asked.

10 News asked the commonwealth's attorney's office that very question, but they declined to comment. Sheriff Michael Mondul, however, doesn't think the move is an issue. 

"Prosecutors are clearly within the circle of trust in the judicial system, as are defense attorneys, so the fact that a piece of cell phone evidence after the trial was handed to the prosecutor to go to the front door of the court house, which is in essence where he went about 50 steps away, while it's not normal practice, it's not a problem," Mondul said.

Mondul said the phone wasn't in the attorney's possession long enough for him to delete anything.

"I'm not a cell phone expert, but I know it doesn't take that long for someone to delete something out of your phone," Pritchett said.

Pritchett is now waiting on a date for her suit, claiming her due process rights were violated and that she was the victim of illegal search and seizure.  She is bringing her case against both the sheriff's department and the commonwealth's attorney in federal district court.