In May 2021, 19-year-old Kevin Valle and another young man hurled rocks through the windows or doors of closed businesses, stepped inside and took what they could across four counties in Northern Virginia. They were arrested in Loudoun County, with some of the stolen items in Valle’s car, and soon began entering guilty pleas to their various cases, in different jurisdictions, the Washington Post reports. In Loudoun, prosecutors for Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj reached a plea deal with Valle’s lawyer for six months in jail and restitution to each of the businesses that were hit. But Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman Jr., who sits in both Loudoun and Fauquier counties, had seen Valle in an early appearance in Fauquier, and noticed that his charges and pleas there weren’t mentioned by the Loudoun prosecutors. After another hearing left Plowman unsatisfied with the plea deal, he kicked the entire prosecutor’s office off the case.
The move was a rare, if not unprecedented, step in Virginia, legal experts said, and represented the latest pushback against a wave of progressive prosecutors who won elections nationwide in recent years promising to reduce incarceration, stop prosecuting low-level crimes and focus on violence. In San Francisco, district attorney Chesa Boudin was recently recalled from office after serving less than three years. State attorneys general in multiple states have taken actions to overrule local prosecutors. Biberaj and other prosecutors in Northern Virginia also face recall efforts. Plowman, who spent 15 years as the Loudoun prosecutor before joining the bench in 2019, hammered his Democratic successor by saying her proffer in the case “sanitizes the facts by screening the court” from knowledge of the other cases, which he deemed “an overt misrepresentation by omission.” Biberaj’s proffer of facts “reflect[s] an inability … to properly prosecute this case with the detail and attention required of a criminal prosecutor,” Plowman wrote.