• 84°

Opinion — Amazingly, parole board investigation turns up nothing

With great shock and amazement, I write to tell you that, after a few weeks study which concluded that “there was nothing to worry about with the Virginia parole board,” they found no problems at all other than the possibility that the lead investigator may possibly have had a bias.

I would have been even more shocked if an out-of-state law firm with strong Democrat ties had found anything. Considering the fact that the law firm was handpicked by the sitting Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring, Gov. Ralph Northam’s staff and the Democrat leadership of the House and Senate in an election year, I would have expected they would have called for the tar and feathering of the investigator. You might remember that the investigator was praised for the quality of her work just six months ago.

The law firm must have been laughing all the way back home for the wasted tax dollars that they were paid to say, “nothing to see.” A sum of a quarter of a million dollars was given to them for this charade. Their investigation never spoke to the inspector general’s investigator.

As I reported to you weeks ago, this was never expected to be anything more than a face-saving exercise to protect Governor Northam. The facts were before the administration and the General Assembly without wasting this money. The parole board’s long-established policy requires that when a murderer or rapist is to be considered for parole release, the board must inform the local commonwealth attorney and family members. They must be given the opportunity to weigh into the consideration of early release. This was not done in this case in which a policeman was murdered, nor in the other half dozen cases in which the governor completely ignored.

Was the IG investigator biased? Who knows and who cares? Her opinions were not the issue. The issue was simply, did the parole board follow their own policy in these cases? The answer was in her report — no.

McAuliffe Appointee

No one seems to know why the parole board decided to go off on a tangent that was contradictory to their own policy. One thing is clear, however; the three-member board was led astray by then Chairman Adrianne Bennett. We know she is an attorney and, therefore, should know the law. She was appointed by then Governor Terry McAuliffe and was selected as chairman by Governor Northam. She was elected as a Virginia Beach judge in March 2020. She started as judge in April. During the last days of her term as chairman of the parole board, she went wild.

As reporter Patrick Wilson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “Bennett also released more than 100 parolees from supervision without any recommendation from local parole officers. And the newspaper reported that in one case she directed parole board notifications to be turned off for the surrogate grandmother of a 17-year-old girl, Gwendolyn ‘Angel’ Thomas, who was murdered by her 27-year-old boyfriend in 1992. After initially denying parole in 2020 to the boyfriend, Hugh Joseph Brown, the parole board reconsidered and released him.”

Taxpayers Still Being Shafted

Months ago, I called for Governor Northam to stop this farce, fess up that his administration was wrong in not admitting that an appointee had erred and get this issue behind him. Instead, he and his staff chose to try to shift blame. They chose to harass and then fire an exemplary investigator and waste $250,000 on this deflection to hide behind.

Interestingly, Judge Bennett went on extended leave in April, and court clerks were instructed not to reach out to her with questions. Currently, she is receiving pay for not working, while the taxpayers are paying for substitute judges to handle the work she should be performing.

The result of all this? Virginia has one less quality state employee, and several murderers and rapists are walking around our communities. Hundreds more that were on supervised parole are no longer required to report where they are and what they are doing. They now can move freely into unsuspecting communities.

Someday, Governor Northam may bother to tell us why.

Frank Ruff Jr. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.