Circuit Court Judge James Plowman appointed a special prosecutor to replace Loudoun County prosecutors in the appeal of a father whose daughter was raped at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., last year by a teenager who then grouped another pupil in another school.
Circuit Court Judge James Plowman appointed a special prosecutor to replace Loudoun County prosecutors in the appeal of a father whose daughter was raped at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., last year by a teenager who then groped another student at another school.
The man, whom the OMCP is not naming to avoid indirectly identifying the teenage victim of sexual assault, had been arrested and convicted in the district court of two offenses – disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice during a a Loudoun County School Board meeting.
Plowman, the former Loudoun County prosecutor, named Stafford County prosecutor Eric Olsen as special prosecutor.
“Judge Plowman called me to ask if I was available,” Olsen told WTOP. “As is often the case, a special prosecutor may be required due to a potential conflict of interest.”
“There is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not there is a direct conflict that would require the removal and/or disqualification of the Loudoun County District Attorney’s Office,” Plowman’s order reads.
However, Plowman said he found the father’s attorney’s position persuasive in oral argument at the motions hearing.
“The concerns about the public’s confidence in the integrity of the prosecution as well as the accused’s concerns about the impartiality of the Commonwealth Prosecutor are sufficiently well founded. Accordingly, the integrity of the due process rights of the ‘accused is threatened and must be protected,’ Plowman wrote.
The man’s attorney, Bill Stanley, told OMCP: “All [his client] ever wanted to do at the school board meeting that night was for its members to be honest about what had happened to her daughter and to protect all students from dangerous policies that put her daughter at risk.
Appeals from district court convictions are heard by the Circuit Court. At an earlier hearing on the motions, Plowman dismissed the obstruction of justice count, ruling that the lower court judge failed to fully complete the paperwork related to that charge. The father’s appeal on the disorderly conduct count will now be handled by Olsen.
Loudoun County Attorney Buta Biberaj told OMCP that she was not informed of the decision to appoint a special prosecutor.
“I’m surprised by the court’s decision because I never had the opportunity to come back and have conversations about the disorderly conduct,” Biberaj said.
Plowman was the former Loudoun County Republican prosecutor, who was appointed to the bench in 2019 after 16 years in the position Biberaj currently holds. Biberaj is a Democrat.
This isn’t the first time Plowman has pulled Biberaj’s office from pursuing a case. In June, he appointed Fauquier County prosecutors to handle a case, after expressing dissatisfaction with a plea deal for a man charged with a series of burglaries at businesses in Northern Virginia.
“I think it is unfortunate that the court is creating a situation where the position of the Commonwealth prosecutor is neutralized. What this does is create insecurity in the community, that parties cannot rely on traditional systems; and it becomes a ploy or an avenue that can be used by individuals to try to circumvent the process,” Biberaj said.
“We disagree that there has been evidence to establish a conflict, real or perceived. The charges against [the defendant] were initiated by the sheriff’s office, and the evidence supporting the charges ensured that prosecution was appropriate,” he said.
Stanley, the lawyer for the father whose daughter was assaulted, wrote: “Today’s court order has righted at least some degree of the injustice created by Ms Biberaj’s bias against [his client]and restored his hope for a fair trial on the remaining charge against him in his quest to protect his beloved daughter.
It’s unclear whether Olsen will choose to continue the appeal trial on the father’s disorderly conduct count, or seek another way to resolve the case. Olsen said he was just made aware of the matter and declined to comment on what might follow.
Olsen, Northern Virginia’s longest serving prosecutor, is also the only Republican.