Circuit Court Judge James Plowman has appointed a special prosecutor to replace Loudoun County prosecutors in the appeal of a father whose daughter was raped at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Virginia, last year by a teen who later groped another student at another school.
The man, who WTOP is not naming to avoid indirectly identifying the teenage victim of sexual assault, had been arrested and convicted in District Court of two misdemeanors — disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice during a Loudoun County school board meeting.
Plowman, the former prosecutor in Loudoun County, appointed Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen as the special prosecutor.
“Judge Plowman called me to ask if I was available,” Olsen told WTOP. “As is often the case, a special prosecutor can be necessary because of potential conflict of interest.”
“There is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not a direct conflict exists that would mandate removal and/or disqualification of the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office,” Plowman’s order read.
However, Plowman said he found the position of the father’s lawyer persuasive during oral argument in the motions hearing.
“The concerns about the public confidence in the integrity of the prosecution as well as the Defendant’s concerns regarding the impartiality of the Commonwealth’s Attorney are sufficiently grounded. As a result, the integrity of the Defendant’s due process rights is in jeopardy and must be protected,” Plowman wrote.
The man’s lawyer, Bill Stanley, told WTOP: “All [his client] ever wanted to do at the school board meeting that night was to have its members be honest about what had happened to his daughter, and protect all students from dangerous policies that put his daughter in harm’s way.”
Appeals to District Court convictions are heard in Circuit Court. During an earlier motions hearing, Plowman had dismissed the count of obstruction of justice, ruling that the lower court judge hadn’t completely filled out paperwork related to that charge. The father’s appeal on the disorderly conduct count will now be handled by Olsen.
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj tells WTOP she had not been notified of the decision to name a special prosecutor.
“I’m surprised by the court’s decision, since I was never given the opportunity to come back and have conversations about the disorderly conduct,” Biberaj said.
Plowman was the former Republican Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney, who was appointed to the bench in 2019 after 16 years in the office Biberaj now holds. Biberaj is a Democrat.
This not the first time Plowman has removed Biberaj’s office from prosecuting a case. In June, he appointed Fauquier County prosecutors to handle a case, after expressing dissatisfaction with a plea agreement for a man charged in a spree of break-ins in Northern Virginia businesses.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the court is creating a situation, where the position of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is being neutralized. What that does is create insecurity in the community, that parties can’t rely on traditional systems; and it gets to be a ploy or avenue that can be used by individuals to try to circumvent the process,” Biberaj said.
“We disagree there was any evidence to establish any conflict, actual or perceived. The charges against [the defendant] were initiated by the Sheriff’s Office, and evidence in support of the charges made it such that prosecution was appropriate,” she said.
Stanley, the attorney for the father whose daughter was assaulted, wrote: “The Court’s Order today has corrected at least in some measure the injustice created by Ms. Biberaj’s bias against [his client], and has restored his hope for a fair trial on the remaining charge against him in his quest to protect his beloved daughter.”
It’s not clear whether Olsen will choose to go forward with the appeal trial for the father’s disorderly conduct count, or seek another way to resolve the matter. Olsen said he was just getting up to speed on the matter, and declined to comment on what might come next.
Olsen, the longest-serving incumbent prosecutor in Northern Virginia, is also the sole Republican.