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Details of parole board investigation hidden from public to soon be shared with some lawmakers

Posted at 12:02 AM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 00:02:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The governor’s office is preparing to release a report detailing the findings of a government watchdog investigation into the actions of the Virginia Parole Board, but there’s still no plan to share it with the media.

The state inspector general’s report will be shared with the six highest-ranking members of the Virginia House and Senate, according to Clark Mercer, chief of staff for Governor Ralph Northam.

“We have certainly told the inspector general that we would like this report shared with as many people as possible,” said Mercer during the governor’s COVID-19 news conference Wednesday.

A copy of the report obtained by CBS 6 through a Freedom of Information Act request was almost completely and totally redacted. Other news organizations report receiving the same redacted document.

While the vast majority of the report is blacked out, a line near the bottom said that Inspector General Michael Westfall had found the allegations against the board to be substantiated and that he would be making recommendations in a subsequent report.

In May, CBS 6 was first to report that Westfall was investigating the way the board had handled the recent parole of Vincent Lamont Martin, who had been serving a life sentence for killing Richmond Police Officer Michael Connors in 1979.

Connors's family said the decision to grant him parole came as a complete surprise, and they were never given the proper notice and opportunity to contest Martin's release.

That release was twice delayed, but Martin was ultimately set free in June.

At Wednesday’s news conference, CBS 6 Crime Insider Jon Burkett asked Governor Northam if he would be be taking any action based on the inspector general's findings.

We'll take a look at that, but right now I support our parole board and I don't have any intentions of making any changes,” said Northam.