AG investigation finds former Virginia Parole Board chair violated law
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Attorney General Jason Miyares released the findings of a year-long investigation into the Virginia Parole Board Wednesday afternoon.
It’s been three years since convicted criminals facing life sentences for violent crimes were cleared to roam free across Virginia. The investigation found that in the Spring of 2020, 137 convicted murderers, rapists and armed robbers were released, violating long-standing rules.
“What happened here was a clear abuse of power. What happened here was the epitome of criminals first and criminals last,” Miyares said.
The report found between February and April 2020, the Virginia Parole Board violated state law at least 149 times under Chair Adrianne Bennett’s permission.
It also included several emails from Bennett. In one email exchange between Bennett and her then administrator Laura Hall, Bennett stated, “Waive the wand of power and let’s cut them loose. There needs to be a silver lining to all this. Give me more!!!”
“She released them from supervision and in some type cases personally corresponded with the offenders about their discharge, eliminating entirely their local parole officer,” Miyares said.
Hall then told investigators that Bennett knew that was against policy.
Victims and their families soon complained they were never told that an inmate was up for release, which Miyares said is also against policy.
“Their attacker, their assailant, the person who held a gun up to the head of a young clerk at a gas station - their lives were turned upside down because their assailant should’ve been behind bars,” Miyares said.
One inmate’s release that received significant scrutiny was that of Vincent Martin. Martin was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Richmond police officer Michael Connors in 1979.
“Virginia Parole Board policy and procedure allowed for [Martin’s] parole to be rescinded based on significant victim opposition. No action was taken,” Miyares said.
In hopes of regaining public confidence, Miyares recommends enhancing ethics rules for parole board members, increasing size and transparency, stronger victim notification requirements, and amending multiple sections of the Virginia Code to better guide the board’s work.
Miyares said Wednesday that if it weren’t for the statute of limitations, Bennett would be charged criminally for those violations. Currently, Bennett serves the state as a judge in Virginia Beach.
He said it is now up to the General Assembly to decide whether she should be impeached.
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