New emails, obtained by a local CBS affiliate, suggest the Virginia Parole Board was actively trying to release large amounts of prisoners.
“Wave that wand of power, and let’s cut them loose,” read one email from former Parole Board Chair Adrianne Bennett, according to CBS. “There needs to be a silver lining to all this! Give me more!!!”
Other emails show Bennet telling an employee she would “release anyone you say to release” from parole supervision and referring to the release of one parolee as “not normal protocol.” In one email, employee Laura Hall said she felt she was “drunk with power.”
The emails were released amid accusations that the board was actively trying to release prisoners by selectively choosing witnesses who would support the release of prisoners and failing to properly notify victims and the families of victims out of concern that they would provide unfavorable testimony for release. The accusation, which the board denies, comes from the Office of the State Inspector General.
The official report also accused the board of breaking the law by not keeping minutes of meetings and failed to properly notify a commonwealth’s attorney in at least one case.
Tracy Schlagel, the parole board administrator, declined to comment on the emails when reached by The Center Square. Gov. Ralph Northam’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“Adrienne Bennett’s vile disregard for the pain and suffering the victims and their family members suffered at the hands of these violent criminals is unspeakably evil,” Tucker Davis, the executive director of the conservative Virginia Rising Action, told The Center Square. “Instead of becoming a judge, Adrianne Bennett should be answering to one.”
Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, told The Center Square demonstrate disregard for Virginia laws and policies.
“They have behaved with contempt for the people of Virginia and especially the victims of crime,” Peake said. “Nothing has been done to remedy this situation and I am disappointed the governor’s office maintains they are acting ‘bravely’ in refusing to notify victims and Commonwealth’s Attorneys, or in other words, to follow the laws they are sworn to follow.”
Peake urged the parole board to release all relevant information the governor to fire all parole board members. He urged the General Assembly to pass meaningful reform.
After this report was already made public, an earlier draft of the report containing harsher accusations was leaked to the public. The earlier draft accused Bennet of asking colleagues to falsify reports and doctor the minutes of meetings, which is illegal.
The author of the report, Jennifer Moschetti, was subsequently fired from her job after she was accused of releasing the document without authorization. She denied releasing the document and is considering legal action against the Office of the State Inspector General. According to her lawyer, Moschetti believes she became a scapegoat for the political fallout.
Moschetti also accused the Northam Administration of harassing her when met with the report and accused the attorney general’s office of shortening and heavily redacting the OSIG report before it was released to the media. The Northam Administration and the attorney general’s office have denied these accusations.
Northam announced he would be seeking an independent investigation into the accusations levied against the parole board.
The General Assembly passed some parole board reform to increase accountability and transparency, but some lawmakers have said the reforms do not go far enough.
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