Prosecutor: Colonial Heights school officials did not violate state law

Posted at 2:30 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 14:31:03-05

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Bethany Harrison said she still did not believe school officials in Colonial Heights violated Virginia’s mandatory reporter law with regard to how they handled "inappropriate behavior" complaints against the former Colonial Heights High school softball coach, after reviewing new information sent to her by a state lawmaker.

Del. Mike Cherry (R - 66) had asked the Virginia State Police to initiate an investigation into accusations that crimes were covered up at Colonial Heights High School.

Cherry said his concerns came after viewing a CBS 6 investigation concerning inappropriate conduct allegations against Jeff Faries, the former coach who was also the Colonial Heights Police Chief.

A Virginia State Police spokesperson said state police completed its review and turned over the information to Harrison, who had been brought in as a special prosecutor to handle the case.

Harrison told Cherry in an email that she reviewed the material he sent her, and she said "these emails do not change my evaluation of the case regarding the question: are there any state crimes to pursue or prosecute against Faries or the school administrators."

She added that she could not view some redacted emails related to the case because "redactions labeled privileged material based upon the attorney-client relationship are protected and I will not be able to obtain them."

"I sent Gray Collins, the Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney, an email around the time you sent me this information and asked him to send me any further information that has come to light. No new information was sent to me," Harrison wrote to Cherry.

Harrison previously determined after reviewing the evidence that "because of the delay in reporting these matters to law enforcement for a criminal investigation, we are beyond the statute of limitations to charge the applicable misdemeanors from these events."

The Colonial Heights City Attorney, Hugh "Chip" Fisher, asked Harrison for clarification, writing in an email:

"It appears that you are saying that there is evidence that former Chief Faries committed a misdemeanor or misdemeanors but that the statute of limitations has expired, thus foreclosing your office from prosecuting him for those."

Harrison responded that his interpretation was correct.

She also sent a letter to the City Manager stating she did not believe the complaints made to school officials back in May 2021 rose to the level of meeting the definition of "abused or neglected child" under state law, so she did not believe school officials violated the mandatory reporter law.

However, she did make a report to Social Services herself.

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