VA. cops push kangaroo charges against black community leaders after Confederate statue damaged

This article contains news and liberal commentary.

A Confederate statue In Portsmouth, Virginia, was damaged by protesters.

Some folks are pissed. White cops are retaliating by going around the local prosecutor, who’s black, to bring political prosecutions against local black leaders, who aren’t charged with specific crimes but rather “conspiracy.”

In Portsmouth, a Navy town with a majority-black population in an increasingly-liberal state, a white police chief has filed felony conspiracy charges against the community’s black leaders merely for being at the protest.

Charged are a 76-year-old Democratic senate leader, attorneys in the local public defender’s office, members of the local NAACP chapter, and a local school board member.

While these charges were being filed, Virginia legislators were taking up “dozens of criminal justice reforms” during a special legislative session. The state’s governor, a Democrat, called the charges “deeply troubling.”

Meanwhile, Police Chief Angela Greene, who replaced a black female police chief forced out by white police officers last year, is asking “the public to help identify other people accused of being at the protest,” apparently intending to criminally charge everyone who was there, not just those who damaged the statue.

It’s not unreasonable for police to seek to identify persons committing illegal acts of property destruction, but prosecuting people simply for being there, if they didn’t participate in destructive acts, would violate their constitutional rights of assembly and free speech.

And that’s where the police chief appears to be going. NBC News reports that “Greene did not specify exactly what [those charged] are accused of doing during the protest. But she said that ‘several individuals conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts.'”

That sounds like Greene considers inviting people to a protest that later turns violent is a criminal act. But she and her co-conspirators in the police department evidently realize those are dodgy grounds for filing criminal charges, because they went around the D.A., who happens to be a black community leader.

The D.A. (called a “Commonwealth Attorney”) didn’t approve the charges. In fact, Greene and her cops are trying to disqualify her from handling the cases by summoning her as a witness, even though she wasn’t at the protests. A witness in a case can’t be the prosecutor in the case at the same time (nor judge, defense attorney, or juror). It’s a transparent — and clumsy — effort to keep the D.A. from blocking a b.s. political prosecution.

In short, no prosecutor is on board, and this is strictly a police show — but it’s not merely grandstanding by a publicity-seeking police chief abusing her authority, thanks to a quirk of Virginia law:

“Claire G. Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said Virginia is one of the few states in which a felony warrant can be filed without a prosecutor’s approval,”

NBC News reported.

“She called for the charges to be dropped. ‘These charges are political, and I think they’re discriminatory,’ Gastañaga said. ‘The police department is making decisions about who should be charged in a circumstance in which the elected (prosecutor) is being bypassed.'”

I have a better idea: Get rid of the police chief and that department’s Confederate-heritage-loving cops. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing mob vandalism of Confederate statues; I’m for removing them, but only by proper means. Nor am I against prosecuting those who actually damaged the statue — while I consider these statues obnoxious, the law’s the law, and there are right and wrong ways of doing things. I object to what the police are doing because they’re going around proper channels to violate innocent people’s rights.

Read story here and here.

Update (9/4/20): Portsmouth’s city manager put Chief Greene on administrative leave pending investigation on Friday, September 4, 2020. Read that story here.

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Photos: Smirking police chief Angela Greene, top right, and Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales, left center, posing in front of a statue of two Virginia signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Marshall and George Wythe.

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