In May 2013, a police officer shot and killed Joshua Johnson at the Wells Fargo in Ghent. Police said Johnson tried to back his car into an officer.
This June, a Norfolk police officer shot and killed David Latham, who was armed with a knife. Latham’s family says he was retreating into his house when he was shot.
Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Greg Underwood, said the use of fatal force against Johnson was justified. The use of force against Latham remains under review.
Councilman Andy Protogyrou has suggested creating a citizens’ panel to review allegations of police misconduct as a way to bolster public confidence. A review panel would consider whether officers had followed their department’s policies and procedures, Protogyrou said. Questions of criminal conduct in use-of-force cases would still be reviewed by a grand jury.
Still, a review panel could help give residents confidence that their appeals are being heard, Protogyrou said.
“I’m not saying that because I’m not satisfied with the system,” he said. “I want citizens to understand people are doing the best humanly possible.”
Nationwide, more than 200 civilian oversight groups with various structures and authority act as a check on the criminal justice system.
“Most major cities have some form of oversight,” Brian Buchner (President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and a special investigator with the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners) said. “It’s a way of reassuring the community… so they can regain trust where there isn’t any.”
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City Manager Marcus Jones often enjoys the good graces of his bosses on the City Council. But Tuesday night was different.
“The manager’s taken a couple hits tonight,” Mayor Paul Fraim noted during the informal session, where four council members expressed displeasure with various aspects of city management.
Councilman Andy Protogyrou led the charge. Protogyrou had called for an investigation of a city-contracted plumber sentenced to 15 months in prison following an FBI investigation. The contractor bribed city employees and overbilled the city for years.
In a three-sentence memo delivered to the council on Friday, Jones said a city investigation found no wrongdoing beyond two city employees who took bribes from the city-contracted plumber. The brief memo didn’t sit well with Protogyrou, who said he expected a full report.
“It’s ironic that of all the nights, tonight we have a discussion on fraud, managing fraud and risk, tone, culture, control and policies,” Protogyrou said. “And what bothers me is, we as a council know nothing as to what went on. “For us to receive our information from the newspaper is not right.”
Protogyrou, a lawyer, questioned Jones about exactly what police, who handled the investigation, had reviewed. “I tell you, I deal with Norfolk PD, and sometimes they don’t take notes. Sometimes they take notes and for some reason they destroy those notes. I know how the system works. I don’t know what happened here, and neither do our taxpayers,” Protogyrou said. “I want to know how it happened, why it happened, what controls were not there, what culture in City Hall didn’t exist, what policies did we not follow.”
Protogyrou suggested the possibility of a review by the city auditor. Jones then said he wanted Alice Kelly, the city’s finance director, to brief the council at the meeting about changes that had been made.
“You cannot answer this for me tonight,” Protogyrou said. “I want to know, what is your new culture, and if you can do it in 30 seconds, I’ll be surprised.”
“Can we try 120 seconds?” Jones asked.
“No,” Protogyrou replied sharply. “I want it written down.”
Protogyrou said he could not ask the right questions without preparation from a written report.
Under state law, police reports from such an investigation could be released to the public, a decision left to the discretion of the affected governments. Because it’s optional, Norfolk and most other local governments in Hampton Roads rarely do so.
Fraim said police would avoid disclosing investigative techniques in writing. But, he told Jones, “there’s a good, healthy discipline about putting things down in writing.”
“This plan that’s been put in place after this incident ought to be reduced to writing for this council, just like Andy has said, and presented to us, so then we can ask you questions about it. OK? I just think that’s a healthy give-and-take,” Fraim said.
Councilman Paul Riddick, in a critique of how police treat blacks, took on Jones and Goldsmith over two fatal police shootings and said the city was acting like an ostrich that “buries his head in the sand.”
“The lack of investigation by the city manager, who also serves as our public safety director for the city, and the police chief… who can only say now that the investigation is in the hands of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, is not giving the citizens of Norfolk the level of comfort that I think is expected of our top public safety officials,” Riddick said.
Finally, Councilman Tommy Smigiel said that developer Ronnie Boone Sr. appeared to be getting a “free pass” for years of putting up buildings that lack proper permits and inspections.
Gesturing toward both Jones and City Attorney Bernard A. Pishko, Smigiel said, “These two offices here have to, at some point, put their foot down and say, ‘Enough is enough.’
“We have citizens who could be living in structures that haven’t been approved by law, and I worry about their safety,” he said. “If we can’t handle this as a city to the fullest extent, then maybe it needs to be turned over to another division to look into. Another city, another commonwealth’s attorney, somebody else, to make sure we don’t continue to be embarrassed.”
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Four felony charges including a charge of malicious wounding will proceed against the Maury High School student who was crowned prom king a week after being arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting.
During a preliminary hearing Thursday a Norfolk General District Judge decided a grand jury should also consider charges of child endangerment, use of a firearm and conspiracy. The judge dismissed 15 other charges.
Evidence included the student’s statement to police, in which he said he told his passenger not to shoot, pushed the weapon down and had the gun pointed at him.
A teenage girl testified she was walking from a store in the 2400 block of Lafayette Blvd. when shots were fired from the front passenger side of a car that drove by. She said she was hit in the leg but did not go to the hospital.
A police officer testified that he stopped a Buick matching the description of the car. He said the student, who was driving the car, was cooperative. The student told police he had a scholarship at Norfolk State University, the officer testified, and said he gave someone a ride for gas money. The officer testified a gun slipped down the leg of one of the passengers as police patted him down. He said there was also a rifle on the floor of the backseat where a toddler was sitting.
The judge silently read the statement the student made to police.
Defense attorney Andy Protogyrou cited portions of his client’s statement, including that his client repeatedly told the shooter not to fire from his car. The student also told police he tried to stop the shooter by pushing down the weapon.
Protogyrou said after the hearing that his client had his passenger for only about a week. News of the student’s return to school after being released on bond raised safety concerns and questions about school policy.
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A police investigation of a plumber convicted of bribing city workers found no wrongdoing beyond an FBI probe that led to charges against three men, a city spokeswoman said this week.
The owner of Zoby Mechanical, was charged in March 2013 with bribing city workers and submitting fraudulent invoices to the city. His company had been the city’s plumbing contractor since 2001.
Zoby is serving a 15-month prison sentence. Two former city employees, a plumbing supervisor and a maintenance supervisor also plead guilty following an FBI investigation. A Virginian-Pilot investigation last year showed how Zoby overbilled the city for a decade.
The city investigation – completed last week – examined whether any other city workers were involved in fraud and found there were none according to a Norfolk City Official.
In a memo to City Council members Friday, City Manager Marcus Jones wrote: “At the conclusion of the investigation, there is no evidence that any other city employees are involved in this criminal act.”
The report by city police won’t be made public. A Norfolk City Official stated under the FOIA statute the City is allowed to withhold it.
Sitting next to Jones at Tuesday’s informal session of the City Council, Councilman Andy Protogyrou said the city manager’s three-sentence report to the council was “not right.”
“I’m thinking I’m going to get a memorandum and instead I get three sentences,” said Protogyrou, who initially asked for a city investigation.
“We as a council know nothing as to what went on. If PD did an investigation, then I want to know what happened.”
Vice Mayor Angelia Williams said she agreed with Protogyrou. “These are things that just don’t make our city look good.”
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Andrew A. Protogyrou is listed in the 2014 Super Lawyers Magazine for Personal Injury General: Defense. This annual list compiles the nation’s top attorneys nominated by their peers for excellence in practice.
This publisher considers the attorneys listed as the go-to attorneys in litigation.
A Maury High School student who was charged with 19 felonies in connection with a shooting graduated with honors Tuesday night.
The student played football at Maury High School was released from jail and voted prom king by the senior class. A school board member said the board would be reviewing policies in light of the incident.
The charges were related to a shooting May 14 around 6 p.m. when emergency communications received a 911 call for a gunshot victim in the 2400 block of Lafayette Boulevard. Norfolk Police Department said officers found a juvenile male victim with an injury that was not life-threatening. Paramedics transported him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for treatment.
An investigation revealed the victim had been standing in the area with a juvenile male acquaintance when the suspects drove by in a 2004 Silver Buick Century along with a 3-year-old child. Witnesses told police the vehicle, passed the block several times before one of the male juveniles inside displayed a gun and shot in the direction of a residence.
The student from Maury drove the vehicle away from the scene and an alert was released to officers with the description of the vehicle. Police stopped the group at Onley and Whitaker Lane, discovered weapons, and detained the suspects.
According to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, two suspects were also charged and remain incarcerated. The Maury student was charged with 19 felonies, including eight counts of use of a firearm, six counts of attempted malicious wounding, two counts of malicious wounding, one count of conspiracy, one count of gang participation, and one count of child endangerment.
The student’s lawyer, Norfolk City Councilman Andrew Protogyrou, said he heard his client tried to stop the shooter. He also said his client was not a threat to the school community.
“He was not only judged not a threat to the school community, he was judged not a threat to the community as a whole because the court had to make such an understanding in its finding to release him on bail,” Protogyrou said.
According to a school board policy posted online, “Students are subject to corrective action for any misconduct that occurs … off school property, when the acts lead to a charge that would be a felony, if committed by an adult.”
Norfolk City Public Schools would not comment on this story.
Protogyrou said Norfolk School Board Chairman who is his client’s pastor, testified on his behalf at his bond hearing.
A family member said the student is an innocent child who just gave someone a ride. He is due back in court on June 30.
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On May 23, a Maury High School senior partied with his classmates at the Half Moon Cruise and Celebration Center and was thrilled when they voted him prom king.
The day before, he had been confined in the City Jail. The senior spent a week in jail after being arrested in connection with a shooting of a teenager that police believe was gang-related. Police charged the student, who is 18, and three others with more than two dozen felonies. His attorney says he is innocent.
The high school student’s future football career is now in jeopardy. Norfolk State University says a football scholarship they gave him is on hold.
But it’s likely that the student will get to attend at least one more special high school event: his graduation.
That’s because Norfolk’s conduct policy says that students with felony charges may be allowed to return to school and attend activities such as prom. Students also can graduate as long as they are eligible.
Maury’s PTA president, said the policy needs to be reviewed. She was shocked to learn that the student was allowed to return to school, given the allegations of gang activity.
Norfolk School Board Chairman said on Friday he understands parents’ concerns about safety and plans to recommend that the board review the division’s conduct policy.
A school spokeswoman, said safety is a top priority when administrators review cases in which students are charged or convicted of felonies. Four school security officers and four off-duty, uniformed Norfolk police officers attended the prom, she said.
According to court documents, the student was arrested May 15 in connection with a drive-by shooting of a teenager in the 2400 block of Lafayette Blvd.
On May 14, the student was allegedly driving a Buick Century with three other teens and a 3-year-old child when a man inside fired toward a house about 6 p.m. A teenager who was not the intended target was hospitalized, according to police and court records.
Police stopped the Buick, seized weapons and arrested four suspects from the vehicle.
The Maury high school student was charged with two counts of malicious wounding, six counts of attempted malicious wounding, six counts of felonious use of a firearm, gang participation, child endangerment and conspiracy to commit malicious wounding, according to court records.
Chief Judge of Norfolk General District Court granted the student a $25,000 bond May 22.
Andy Protogyrou, the student’s attorney and also a Norfolk City Council member, said he asked Norfolk School Board Chairman, as the student’s pastor, as well as the teenager’s mother, brother and two of his Maury coaches to attend the hearing.
Protogyrou said he has “very favorable evidence in defense of the charges.” His client never had a weapon, and although he was driving the car, “when he saw a weapon, he tried to get it from the shooter’s hand,” Protogyrou said Friday. “And there’s also evidence that he may have been threatened himself.”
Court documents state that a co-defendant is a enrolled as a student at Granby High. A magistrate noted that, “Rivalry still exists between the 2 gangs, also the target of the shooting wasn’t shot.”
Protogyrou said the student attended his prom with an adult male family member.
Maury’s PTA president said school officials should consider alternative school placements until students with criminal charges have had their cases resolved in court.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled forJune 30.
A former Norfolk teacher and president of the Middle Towne Arch at Broad Creek civic league, said he has known Protogyrou’s client and his mother for years. “He’s a very kindhearted person,” he said. “He’s always willing to do favors and stuff. I think he just made a mistake. He was doing a favor for the wrong folks.”
An assistant athletic director at Norfolk State, said the Maury student’s scholarship offer “is on hold pending the judicial process.” NSU plans to “wait and see how it plays out,” he said.
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Norfolk School Board backed off a vote to replace the aging Maury High School. A majority of Norfolk City Council members say they were surprised by the plans to replace the school and believe it should be preserved.
Mayor Paul Fraim said when he first learned about the plans, he was dismayed that they were considering anything but renovating Maury.
Councilwoman Theresa Whibley, a former School Board member, said the plans caught her off guard and that she supports renovation.
Councilman Barclay Winn said he was “totally blindsided” by the attempted vote.
Council members Andy Protogyrou, Tommy Smigiel and Paul Riddick also support renovation.
The City Council appoints School Board members and provides funding for school construction, ultimately the council would have to sign off on any replacement or major renovation. Maury, which opened in 1910, is the oldest high school still in use in South Hampton Roads.
The school division said it spends up to $80,000 a year to inspect and stabilize the school. Fixing the crumbling exterior walls would cost more than $6 million. A consultant told the board on May 14 that it would cost $52 million to renovate and that a new school, priced at $73 million, would likely last longer. Board members favored replacement, citing the longer life span, and they almost voted on the matter during that meeting but agreed to put off the vote until their regular meeting May 21. On May 21, the board removed the Maury vote from the agenda.
Maury alumnus Evans Poston, who is also the city’s commissioner of revenue, said he was shocked to hear about the plans. “I’m hearing lots of outrage about the perceived lack of transparency,” he said. “I’ve seen firsthand how much people love that building, love that school, love the tradition of being from Maury High.”
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With a DUI conviction now on his record, Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood plans to appeal and could find himself fighting to keep his job.
Accomack County General District Judge found Underwood guilty of driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test on April 25, 2014. He ordered Underwood to spend three days in jail.
Friday’s court hearing came after Underwood’s case was delayed three times, because his attorney, state Senator Tommy Norment, was dealing with General Assembly business.
The charges grew out of an October 23, 2013 traffic stop on Interstate 264 near the Brambleton Avenue exit.
Underwood, was pulled over along with two motorists who had followed behind him through safety cones that marked off a road construction area, according to State Trooper J.O. Ogden. Ogden testified that he let the other motorists go and made a call to his dispatcher to contact his supervisor after he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on the Norfolk prosecutor’s breath.
He said Underwood’s speech was slurred and when he got out of his vehicle, he seemed unstable on his feet, and appeared to be using the vehicle as a brace or to steer himself, the trooper said. Ogden, a former Virginia Beach deputy, said he knew Underwood from the years that he was a prosecutor in Virginia Beach.
The trooper said he asked Underwood more than once if he was going to take the tests and each time he refused.
Norment argued that the trooper had Underwood get out of his car for a field sobriety test and never specifically asked him to take a breath test. The judge pointed out that Ogden knew Underwood and knew he was an attorney who would understand what kind of tests were involved. The trooper testified that Underwood told him he would refuse any test he offered.
Underwood did not enter a plea on the DUI charge but stipulated the evidence was sufficient to find him guilty. He pled not guilty to the other charges that grew out of the traffic stop.
The judge said he would give Underwood the same sentence he gives to others in such cases. He sentenced Underwood to 33 days in jail, with all but three suspended, and a fine of $1,000 with $500 suspended and ordered him to participate in an Alcohol Safety Action Program. He also said Underwood’s driver’s license would be suspended for a year. The judge dismissed the charge of possession of a concealed weapon while intoxicated in a public place; and reduced the reckless driving in a construction work zone charge to improper driving.
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Nice subject here. Actually in the state system most criminal trials are without a jury. This means the Judge decides guilt or innocence. In the federal courts, almost all not guilty trials are with a jury. Why the difference. One systems all juries another system, it’s rare.
As they say, the devil is in the details. All defendants have a right to trial by jury. But in the Virginia state system, the jury also recommends a sentence on a finding of guilt. In the federal system, the issue of punishment is left entirely to the Judge.
Personally, I don’t try cases in federal court anymore. The “why” is a subject for another note. But in the state system. We have a case of PWID (possession with intent to distribute). This offense is punishable by statute from 5 to 40 years. Yeah, a lot of time. No parole must serve 85% and then you get out. The least a jury can recommend under this system is 5 years. A judge trying the case can give probation. Actually sentencing guidelines for a defendant with no record ranges from 7 months to one year 6 months, or so. But if the jury recommends 5 years, the judge will impose it even if he would have imposed a sentence in accordance with the sentencing guidelines. God help you if the jury recommends 30 years. The judge will impose that 30 years. See you in about 2037. No foolin. The judge almost always imposes the sentence recommended by the jury. Doesn’t have to, but will. Doesn’t want to be the subject of critical comments in the media. Talk about judicial courage.
But the state system saves money. Jury trials are expensive. We would need more judges, more courtrooms, more DAs, more defense lawyers, public defenders. So no one complains.