AG Miyares: Virginia Parole Board took actions that 'endangered safety'

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-26 10:30:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The former chair of the Virginia Parole Board abused her power and put public safety at risk, but will not face criminal charges, according to Attorney General Jason Miyares.

On Wednesday, the state’s top prosecutor released the findings of a year-long investigation into the actions of the parole board under Adrianne Bennett.

“Frankly, the answers we found in this parole board investigation are worse than we thought,” said Miyares. “Hundreds of offenders were given parole eligibility in violation of multiple Virginia laws and procedure.”

Over the course of the probe, investigators found probable cause to believe that Bennett violated eight court orders, according to Miyares, but he said there will be no prosecution because the relevant statute of limitations has lapsed.

The investigation found Bennett used her authority to unilaterally release 137 violent offenders from parole supervision in April 2020, something that Miyares said violated several administrative procedures. Three separate times, Bennett falsely claimed that a parole officer or VPB employee had requested an inmate’s release, according to the attorney general.

One of the controversial parole decisions mentioned in the report concerned the case of Vincent Lamont Martin.

CBS 6 was the first to report that Martin, who had been serving a life sentence for killing a Richmond police officer, had been granted parole.

The victim’s family protested, saying they had not been given a fair chance to argue against his release, and Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney later asked the board to rescind their decision.

Martin was ultimately released after several delays.

The Virginia Office of the Inspector General later found fault with the way the Martin case and several others were handled. The decision to grant Martin discretionary parole violated the state’s victim contact statute, according to Miyares.

That investigation also found that at one point during the Martin discussions, Bennett “expressed ‘regret’ that the parole board was required by law to contact the family of martin’s victim” about his release.”

Bennett left the VPB after she was elected by the General Assembly to serve as a juvenile court judge in Virginia Beach. She took office on April 16, 2020.

But Miyares said the investigation found that Bennett still involved herself with the board.

"We also noted that after she became a judge, she violated canon 2N of the Virginia Canons of Judicial Conduct,” said Miyares. “Why? Because she continued to transact the business of the parole board even after she became a judge."

Miyares said that during the investigation, they discovered that all of Bennett’s official parole board emails had been deleted, and she refused to discuss cases with investigators. He also confirmed that Bennett was suspended from the bench after the parole board information surfaced.

CBS 6 reached out to the law firm that is representing Bennett, and we were told they will not be making a comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.