CBS 6 obtains internal email showing Virginia Parole Board deliberations

Posted at 11:54 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 09:23:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam has said for weeks that he's in favor of an outside investigation into the Office of the State Inspector General’s (OSIG) reports about the Virginia Parole Board.

Tuesday, he promised to set aside funds for that investigation.

One day after a whistleblower was fired, CBS 6 Crime Insider Jon Burkett asked Northam about the OSIG decision to terminate one of his top investigators -- weeks after she acknowledged she was a whistleblower, and provided documents to legislative leaders that she said backed up accusations of wrongdoing.

“I think we've talked about that significantly,” said Northam. “I support parole. I think it is an important part of criminal justice reform. This should not and cannot become political. And I will do everything I can to keep politics out of it because people deserve better. We are working on a budget amendment [for the funds], we are working with the attorney general, and we are working with the legislature to have an independent agency come in and do a complete investigation. I think that will answer a lot of the questions that folks have, and so that's the way we will move forward.”

CBS 6 obtained internal Virginia Parole Board emails detailing their deliberations.

Dated April 2020, one showed then Parole Board Chair Adrianne Bennett telling a parolee his early discharge certificate was "not normal protocol."

Another instance showed an email chain between Bennett and board employee Laura Hall, who at the time was going through a report of everyone in the Commonwealth on parole supervision.

In one email, Bennett says to Hall, “I will release anyone you say to release,” referring to parolees still being supervised.

Hall replied that she felt "drunk with power,” and updated Bennett on her progress.

Bennett responded "Wave that wand of power, and let's cut them loose. There needs to be a silver lining to all this! Give me more!!!"

When asked whether he thought the board acted responsibly, Northam said, “This is again the reason that we need an independent agency to come in and investigate. And that's what we plan to do.”