Culpeper Commonwealth’s Attorney actions ‘Unacceptable’
© Culpeper TimesWarning that criminals will go free and unpunished, victims won’t receive justice and law enforcement personnel in Culpeper County are being harmed, the Culpeper Town Council fired off a letter this month blasting Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Revis Frederick for her refusal to prosecute cases involving Officer Matt Haymaker.
The May 15 letter called Frederick’s actions “unacceptable.”
The letter spelled out a chilling scenario that would allow a suspect charged with a serious crime to go free.
“As a patrol officer, on any given day Officer Haymaker may discover evidence of a serious crime and become a critical witness in the resulting criminal case,” the letter stated. “If you decline to prosecute all cases he is involved in, then criminals will go free and victims will be deprived of justice.”
Council’s letter was signed by eight of the nine members. Councilman Jon Russell did not sign, stating in an email that as he was out of town on business and later dealing with a death in the family when the letter was circulated for signatures. Tuesday afternoon, Russell said that he sees both sides of the issue but that he “probably” would have signed the letter.
The letter to Frederick followed a discussion at its regular May 12 council meeting. The council entered into a closed session to discuss with legal counsel “probable future litigation involving the town police department.”
Last year, Frederick filed two complaints involving Haymaker’s actions. None of the complaints, according to the town, resulted in a finding of credibility issues involving Haymaker. The letter notes that Haymaker is a state-certified police officer in good standing with the department.
Earlier this year, Frederick also filed a motion in circuit court to review Haymaker’s personnel and internal affairs files, but a judge denied the request.
However, on Mar. 26, Frederick sent a letter to Culpeper Police Chief Chris Jenkins signed by all attorneys in her office, stating that she and her staff would no longer prosecute any cases involving Haymaker “no matter how slight his involvement in a case.”
“This office strives to embrace the highest standards of professional and personal conduct,” Frederick wrote. “As prosecutors, we are unanimous in our determination that it is not in the Commonwealth’s best interests to utilize Detective Haymaker as a witness.”
The town’s letter, obtained by the Times, through a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, noted that on May 12 Town Attorney Martin Crim had notified Frederick that Haymaker had undergone additional training and had been reassigned to patrol.
Again, on May 12, according to the town’s letter, Frederick was unmoved and told town officials that she and her staff will not prosecute any cases involving Haymaker.
“”We do not find that an acceptable explanation, much less a compelling one, for declining to prosecute all cases where he is a witness,” the council members wrote. “Your position is contrary to the Commonwealth’s goal of protecting citizens from criminal activity. In addition, your position is harmful to the entire town police force, as well as other law enforcement agencies serving our community.”
The letter admitted that Frederick legally possesses discretion about which cases to prosecute.
“You have the legal duty to prosecute cases and do not have the authority to exclude an officer from being a witness unless that officer is subject to impeachment on the basis of credibility, which is not the case here,” the letter stated.
Haymaker had been assigned to the Street Crimes Unit, which was later incorporated into the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force comprised of law enforcement officers from numerous localities and coordinated by the state police. The local officers are granted Special State Police Authority, giving them arrest powers outside their respective jurisdictions.
In an April 19 letter obtained by the Times through a FOIA request, Virginia State Police Capt. Gary Settle wrote to Chief Jenkins that while he is aware that many view Frederick’s stance controversial, he weighed all the options given Frederick’s refusal to prosecute any cases in which Haymaker was involved.
“However, the overall interest of the task force and validity of task force investigations remain paramount,” Capt. Settle wrote.
Effective on the date of the letter, Settle permanently rescinded Detective Haymaker’s Special State Police Authority, which was granted Nov. 18, 2014.
Haymaker since then has been reassigned to uniform patrol.
Frederick was sent an email and left a voicemail seeking comment about whether she has changed her stance following the town council’s letter. She did not respond.
“The town council would like to put this matter behind us, but that is not possible until you agree to prosecute cases involving Haymaker without prejudgment,” the letter concluded. “We look forward to your favorable reply.”
In the last paragraph of the letter, the town council told Frederick that she should not refuse to prosecute cases involving Haymaker as those actions will allow criminals to go free and victims not receive the justice they seek from the office of Culpeper County’s chief law enforcement officer.
“You should not allow this to happen, and the town cannot allow it to happen,” the eight council members wrote.
As of press time, the town has not received a reply from Frederick.
Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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