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‘Tragedy from the beginning to the end’: Virginia senator calls for investigation on parole board

Controversy starting in the spring of 2020

A local lawmaker is calling for an investigation of the Virginia Parole Board after a state agency found violations with how the board releases criminals.
A local lawmaker is calling for an investigation of the Virginia Parole Board after a state agency found violations with how the board releases criminals.

Republican State Senator Steve Newman is expressing frustration over the Virginia Parole Board.

“This has been a tragedy from the beginning to the end,” said Newman. “There was no concern about the safety of the public.”

The controversy started in the spring of 2020, when the board released nearly 100 convicted prisoners, even violent offenders, from crowded prisons when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, according to the Associated Press.

That includes Vincent Martin who killed a Richmond police officer in 1979.

The move sparked concern from victims’ families who said they were never properly notified, which is required of the board by law.

In a post on Facebook Wednesday, Newman talks about a previously leaked email chain that allegedly shows a conversation between the former parole board chairwoman and a board employee.

In the chain, they write “I feel drunk with power.” And “I will release anyone you say to release.”

The Office of the State Inspector General looked into complaints against the board and found that the board and former chairwoman violated state law and board policies in the Martin case.

This week, Jennifer Moschetti, a state investigator working on the probe into the parole board was fired. Her attorney says it was allegedly for coming forward with concerns over the handling of the investigation.

This sparked reaction from Governor Ralph Northam. On Tuesday, he said he plans to set aside funds for an independent investigation.

“We are working on a budget amendment. We are working with the attorney general. We are working with the legislature to have an independent agency come in and do a complete investigation and, I think, answer a lot of the questions that folks have,” said Northam.

But Newman said that’s not enough.

“We need a legislative investigation into these matters,” said Newman. “Determine what they knew and when they knew it and what laws were broken, and then we need to take action to make sure this never happens again.”

In a statement to 10 News from Kate Hourin, the communications director for the Office of the State Inspector General, she writes:

“Please know that the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) models integrity, trust and ethical behavior and demonstrates the highest standards of honesty, respect and accountability. For privacy reasons, OSIG cannot comment on personnel matters and investigations.”

10 News also reached out to Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea, who serves on the parole board. He said the Code of Virginia prohibits him from talking about matters related to parole.


About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!