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State leaders: 'We never saw full parole board violations report'

Posted at 9:28 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 16:39:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Why was a report detailing the findings of an investigation into the Virginia Parole Board cut down from the original 13 pages to just the six released to the public?

The longer report, obtained by CBS 6 Crime Insider Jon Burkett, described troubling violations committed by the parole board and its former chair, according to a government watchdog.

The specific parole case in which the alleged violations occurred involved Vincent Martin.

The Richmond man was serving a life prison sentence for killing Richmond Police Officer Michael Connors in 1979.

When asked about the longer report issued by the Office of the State Inspector General, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he had not yet seen the report.

"If we have the availability of what you're looking at, we'd be glad to address it, but I can't speculate on something I haven't seen," Northam said.

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran echoed the governor's response.

“I never saw it. I saw a six-page [report] and read it, reviewed it, and responded to it numerous times," Moran said. "I've been very transparent about it. I responded to a six-page report and I haven't seen anything else regarding Vincent Martin.”

That 13-page report included a section that reported the now-former Virginia Parole Board chairwoman Adrianne Bennett had lied to Moran about the handing of Martin's parole.

“Yeah, there was a reference according to your report, a reference to some April conversation,” Moran said. “It's the first I'm aware of that."

Page 11 of the report obtained by CBS 6, stated that on April 3, 2020, Bennett falsely stated to Moran that she had not advocated for Martin's release.

According to the report, earlier in the day, Bennett sent an email to other board members that indicated she wanted the case certified.

The report also stated Bennett wrote she had stirred up a hornets’ nest in regards to the victims and that Martin had been railroaded.

"If true, that now all the parties emerging in this, it is turning out to be a sad episode in the history of our Commonwealth’s criminal justice system that all are held accountable,” Virginia House minority leader Del. Todd Gilbert (R - 15th District) said.

Gilbert called for the resignations of Bennett, who is now a judge, and current Parole Board Chair Tonya Chapman.

He said impeachment proceedings would be next if they failed to step down.

The Office of the State Inspector General investigation found both Bennett and Chapman violated the state constitution, codes, policies, and procedures.

In his report, Inspector General Michael Westfall said Chapman was found to have made false entries or destruction of records, a class one misdemeanor, and in clear violation of executive order 52 which requires cooperation with the IG’s investigation.

"I know there are those opposed to the concept of mercy, redemption, and parole and because of that opportunity, they can't put aside their political agenda to now attack those making tough choices," Del. Don Scott Jr. (D - 80th District) said. "I wasn't involved in the decision making but I'd hope that before we go and attack folks we would at least read the full report ."

"I want the gentleman to know that in fact I've read the entire report," Del. Gilbert replied. "I hope he will join me in looking at it together and try and clean up this mess!"

When asked to comment about the developments, Office of the State Inspector General communications director Kate Hourin provided the following statement:

OSIG has previously released accurate final reports regarding actions of the Virginia Parole Board to the Governor, General Assembly, news media and the public during the past eight months. Recently, news media has presented purported draft OSIG reports regarding its investigation of the actions of the Virginia Parole Board. OSIG wants to emphasize that any draft OSIG report involving the Parole Board that was recently disclosed to the news media was released without the consent of OSIG. OSIG is taking appropriate action to identify the person(s) responsible for improperly disclosing such information.