|Questions related to special grand jury investigation surface|
W.N. Alexander II
Friday, January 29, 2010
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Franklin County Circuit Court Judge William N. Alexander II's name was not on the General Assembly's list of reappointments Wednesday because of "irregularities" in a recent special grand jury investigation.
Del. Bill Janis (R-Henrico), chairman of the judicial system's subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice, said Alexander's name was pulled from consideration because some legislators saw irregularities in the handling of the special grand jury that charged Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt with a misdemeanor.
The report was released on Dec. 21, three days after Alexander, who is up for reappointment this year, appeared with other incumbent judges for interviews before the Senate and House Courts of Justice committees.
"Normally, we would have asked about the grand jury investigation during the interview process; however, we were not made aware of the report until after the interview was conducted," Janis said.
"Several members of the House and Senate have concerns about the way the grand jury was conducted, specifically that the report was released to the public, which almost never happens and when it does, it's quite remarkable," Janis said. "We need additional information from the judge as to why the investigation was handled in this way."
Alexander will be sent a number of questions from the chairmen of both the House and Senate Courts Committees, Janis said. A second interview with Alexander may be requested if more information is needed, he added.
The special grand jury report released to the media included many details about the investigation, including the names of the jurors.
The grand jury started its investigation in May 2009, looking into various allegations concerning the operation and recordkeeping of the sheriff's department. The findings included a misdemeanor charge against Hunt on a count of violating a Virginia Code related to recordkeeping.
The special grand jury examined the department's policies and practices related to evidence handling and said that "physical evidence, including drug-related cases, has not and is not being managed in a manner to ensure effective law enforcement."
The "systemic problem" in evidence handling "spans more than the current sheriff's administration," the grand jury said.
Hunt's attorney, Bill Stanley, called the misdemeanor charge "obscure," and said he had filed a petition to "review and/or redact portions of the report that were irrelevant to the grand jury's mandate."
But, he said, that petition was not considered by Alexander before the release of the report.
Stanley said the findings of the grand jury were "totally based on conjecture, speculation and innuendo, so to subject children to such public scrutiny is troubling."
Janis said Alexander's term does not expire until March 15, which gives legislators time to look into the matter further.
Alexander was appointed as a circuit court judge in 1994 and was reappointed to a second term in 2002.
Alexander could not be reached for comment.