Report From Virginia Office of the State Inspector General Finds Virginia Parole Board Acted Illegally

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A report from Virginia’s Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) alleges that the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) acted illegally and violated parole board policies earlier this year.

The report from the Virginia OSIG found the Virginia Parole Board and its former chairperson, Adrianne Bennett, “violated both state law and parole board policies earlier this year in granting parole to the murderer of a police officer.”

An op/ed from The Daily Progress claims that this report was withheld from the public “until three senior Republicans demanded to see it.” These Republicans released an unredacted copy of the report to the public on August 6.

Media outlets were sent a heavily redacted version of the six-page report on July 29. That version left a few introductory sentences legible; the rest was blacked out.

The OSIG’s report investigated complaints “alleging that VPB and former VPB Chair Adrianne Bennett violated Commonwealth of Virginia (COV) statutes and VPB policies and procedures regarding the parole” of Vincent Lamont Martin.

Martin was arrested for the 1979 murder of Richmond Police patrolman Michael Connors. Martin was on parole for a previous crime at the time of the murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1980.

Martin became eligible for parole in 1994, but the VPB “denied him parole at each review until 2020,” according to the OSIG report.

The VPB granted Martin parole on April 9, 2020. Martin was released from prison on June 10, 2020.

The OSIG report found that the VPB did not follow its own policies and violated laws concerning the parole of convicted inmates.

According to the report, the VPB did not follow the required timeline for notifying the state attorney assigned to Martin’s case. Martin’s release date was originally scheduled on April 30, 2020. The VPB notified the attorney on April 15, 15 days before Martin’s scheduled release.

Per Commonwealth of Virginia (COV) Code §53.1-136(3)(c), the state attorney must be notified at least 21 business days prior to a parolee’s release for inmates convicted of a felony and sentenced to 10 or more years.

The OSIG also found that the VPB did not “endeavor diligently” to contact Connors’ family prior to its decision to parole Martin. COV Code §53.1-155(B)requires the VPB to allow victims or their families 50 days to contest or comment on the parole of an inmate.

The report claims that the VPB “did not perform any due diligence to contact [Connors’] family” and notify them of his parole hearings, which started in 1994. Rather, the first notification sent to the family was dated March 4.

This notification also instructed the family to “provide input regarding the discretionary parole release of VLM within 21 days, even though VPB procedure allows 50 days for victim response,” according to the report.

The report states that the family was also denied access to meet with the VPB, which is a violation of VPB Procedure Manual 1.112(6).

The family scheduled a conference call with the VPB on March 12, 2020, but “neither Bennett nor any other representative from VPB honored this scheduled interview.”

Connors’ family later requested to meet with the VPB in person on March 26, 2020. Bennet denied an in-person meeting due to COVID-19, but the VPB “did not update or change any policies or procedures in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The OSIG also found that the VPB “did not cause the keeping of meeting minutes as required by COV Code §53.1-139.” The report claims that “there are no records of VPB meeting minutes for October 2019-March 2020.”

Based on these findings, the OSIG has substantiated the allegations against the VPB.

The VPB responded to the OSIG report, claiming that the OSIG’s findings were “based on faulty assumptions, incorrect facts, a misunderstanding of certain procedures, and incorrect interpretations of the Virginia State Code.

The VPB specifically stated that it eventually changed Martin’s official release date to June 10 in order to comply with the requirement to notify state attorney 21 business days prior to an inmate’s release.

The VPB also claims that those members of Connors’ families it classifies as victims (as defined by COV Code §19.2-11.01(B)(v)) did provide input concerning Martin’s parole within the required guidelines.

The VPB closed the letter by questioning the OSIG’s interpretation of the term “endeavor diligently” when referring to the VPB’s efforts to reach out to Connors’ family.

Governor Ralph Northam’s office released a statement to CBS 6, saying:

“Governor Northam appreciates the work of the Inspector General and is glad this report has been made public. It is important to note that this review was procedural and has nothing to do with the merits of the Parole Board’s decision to release this individual, who had served a 40-year sentence. Governor Northam has spoken with the new Chair of the Parole Board, and reiterated that he expects all notification procedures to be followed, period.”

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Sam Medley is a journalist at the Tennessee Star and Star News Network. You can follow Sam at Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Vincint Lamont Martin” by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

 

 

 

 

 

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