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Former top prosecutor facing misconduct charges from the Virginia State Bar after CBS 6 investigation

‘Community revulsion’ leads to ouster of top county prosecutor
Posted at 11:19 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 17:42:14-04

LANCASTER COUNTY, Va. -- The subject of a CBS 6 investigation is facing misconduct charges from the Virginia State Bar for his handling of an alcohol-fueled boating crash case that left a young man dead.

Former Lancaster County Commonwealth's Attorney Jan Smith lost re-election in November in a landslide and his law license is now in peril.

The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board will hear ethics charges brought against him.

Smith was the subject of a CBS 6 investigation into his handling of the case of a Richmond man charged in the boating death of his friend Graham McCormick.

‘Community revulsion’ leads to ouster of top county prosecutor

Investigators said Graham McCormick was thrown out of a boat and left for dead by his friend, Rand Hooper, in August of 2017.

Smith offered Hooper a controversial plea agreement: one year behind bars in exchange for a guilty plea.

But, McCormick's family spoke out against Smith stating the plea was not harsh enough, and they even tried to get him removed from their case.

McCormick's father Burke McCormick, and Chip Woodson, the man who owns the property where McCormick's body was found, both claimed Smith demonstrated a breach of legal ethics during the case.

They alleged that Smith misrepresented that he had discussed the case with the judge, and that the judge had expressed doubts as to whether the Commonwealth could prove its case.

According to documents filed by the VSB, Smith had a "brief discussion with the judge" on June 9th about the case.

Smith "generally discussed Respondent's motivations for entering into the plea agreement and the judge made a non-committal statement regarding the difficulty the Commonwealth faces in prosecuting cases."

Smith then talked to Woodson and Burke McCormick and, according to the documents, "misrepresented that he had discussed the case with the judge and that the judge had expressed doubts as to whether the Commonwealth could prove its case."

A subcommittee of the state bar found those actions to violate the rules of professional conduct.

Judge Herbert Hewitt ultimately threw out the plea agreement negotiated between defense attorneys representing Hooper and Smith, calling it "inappropriate" for the crime.

Burke McCormick released a statement on the behalf of the McCormick family after learning of the charges against Smith.

“Our family is very grateful that the Bar is investigating Mr. Smith’s conduct in the Hooper case. The delay in getting justice for Graham has compounded our grief and prevented us from getting closure. And, this has affected not only our immediate family, but many others impacted by Graham’s death.”

Smith has 21 days to respond to the allegations.

No hearing date has been set.

A hearing in the Hooper case was rescheduled for September 10 at 2 p.m.