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Judge bans 'progressive,' high-ranking prosecutor from criminal case for 'deliberately misleading the Court and the public'

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Loudoun County (Virginia) Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj (Image source: WTTG-TV video screenshot)

A judge in Loudoun County, Virginia, has removed a "progressive" high-ranking county prosecutor from a criminal case for "deliberately misleading the Court and the public."

Some veteran attorneys and prosecutors told WTTG-TV they've never seen such a move take place.

What are the details?

The order from Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Plowman says the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj went after a plea deal for a serial burglary suspect while downplaying and even omitting his prior criminal past as well the most recent charges against him in other jurisdictions, the station said.

More from WTTG:

Kevin Enrique Valle was arrested on five warrants charging him with three misdemeanors for destruction of property and false identification, and two felonies for burglary.

Plowman writes that the plea agreement by Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Michele Burton states that the crimes occurred within hours of each other, not over the course of days or weeks. Plowman calls the assessment 'entirely inaccurate,' because the defendant is accused of 'a possible 12 burglary crime spree spanning four counties over ten days.'

The order says the Loudoun offenses happened May 18, 2021, but that the suspect is also accused of three burglaries that same day in Fairfax County, in addition to two burglaries in Fauquier County and four burglaries in Prince William County on May 14. The judge writes that Valle is also named as a participant in another Loudoun burglary on May 8.

Plowman criticizes the prosecution’s assessment of Valle’s lack of prior adult convictions and felony convictions, saying Valle had just plead guilty to three felonies, had pending felony charges and had been convicted of charges that would be felonies if he had been an adult at the time.

Plowman calls it 'an overt misrepresentation by omission' by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.

"The explanation highlights a lack of knowledge of the facts of the case or the ability to apply basic legal principals," Plowman added, according to the station.

The judge went on to say that "the Commonwealth is deliberately misleading the Court, and the public, in an effort to ‘sell’ the plea agreement for some reason that has yet to be explained," WTTG reported.

He added that "the Commonwealth's Attorney's office agreed to a 6-month sentence, and the low end of the sentencing guidelines was 7 months" and that "once the Fauquier County conviction was factored, the low end of the guidelines was 1 year and 7 months," the station said.

Plowman recused himself from the case "unless the parties agree otherwise," WTTG said, adding that he ordered the Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to prosecute the case instead.

What's the deal with this prosecutor?

The station said Biberaj has been criticized previously — including by former employees — for how she's handling cases and running her office.

One former prosecutor speaking on the condition of anonymity because of continued work in the legal field complained to WTTG of being "pushed to bond people out in domestic violence cases" and that Biberaj "pushes to let people out, generally."

Criminal indictments in the Loudoun County have fallen 67 percent since Biberaj was elected in 2020, the station said, citing county circuit court data, adding that there were 681 indictments in 2019 compared to 225 in 2021.

What's more, the family of a woman murdered last year said the system failed her after her husband was freed following his arrest on assault, strangulation, and abduction charges, WTTG said. Community corrections advised holding Peter Lollobrigido, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office agreed to his release on an unsecured $5,000 bond, the station said. Investigators said Lollobrigido went on to murder his wife, Regina, WTTG reported.

In addition, the station reported that Biberaj’s office hired a registered sex offender as a paralegal.

Biberaj speaks

Biberaj said Tuesday she's appealing Plowman's order to the state supreme court, WTOP-FM reported.

“I submit to you, and our appeal is going to be based on the fact that, there is no authority for the judge to do so,” she said, according to the station.

As for the criminal case against Valle, Biberaj said “we don’t have to exact every ounce of punishment from him in our case because every other jurisdiction is going to add to it. Us giving him a lower sentence of 6 months versus 7 months, we’re talking 1 month," according to WTOP.

She added to the station that Valle stole $2,900 worth of property in Loudoun County and called him a "19-year-old boy, a teenager. He could be your son. He could be your brother. He could be your child’s playmate. He is 19 years of age and guess what? He made some knucklehead decisions."

Biberaj also criticized Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who in a Monday letter to the Loudoun County Court supported the Plowman’s decision to oust Biberaj & Co. from the case and offered his office to help prosecute the case, WTOP said.

Biberaj accused Miyares of overstepping his authority, the station said.

“This is a specific message to Attorney General Miyares — stay in your lane,” she said, according to WTOP. “Your lane is Richmond.” Biberaj added that "for him to try to insert himself is not an appropriate use of his power. It’s a misuse of his power because what he is doing is dividing our community … since his election, he has been wanting to undermine the good work that we do as progressive prosecutors,” the station said.

Anything else?

Judge Plowman was the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Loudoun prior to Biberaj's election, WTTG said.

In addition, Plowman last June reinstated a Christian teacher who was suspended by Loudoun County Public Schools after opposing the district's new transgender-affirming policies. In late August, the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that Tanner Cross' suspension was likely unconstitutional.

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