Prosecutor says this former police chief committed a crime. So why wasn't he charged?

Posted at 12:33 PM, Oct 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-26 05:52:59-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) decertified former Colonial Heights Police Chief Jeff Faries after a prosecutor said she would have brought charges against the former police chief if she could.

The October 4 decertification means Faries can no longer serve as a law enforcement officer. DCJS Division Director Harvey Powers said, to his knowledge, this is the first time a police chief has ever been decertified in Virginia.

Faries can appeal the decision.

The decertification occurred after the Colonial Heights Police Department let DCJS know Faries met the statutory requirements for decertification.

They did so after the Virginia State Police investigated alleged "inappropriate behavior' complaints against Faries.

Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Bethany Harrison, who was appointed as special prosecutor in this case, said school officials in Colonial Heights, where Faries was also a high school softball coach, were made aware of those complaints in May 2021.

Harrison told CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit that the complaints, which came from some members of Faries' team and some other students at the school, described him as being "creepy", too "touchy-feely" and sending text messages or social medial comments that parents found to be inappropriate and made the girls feel uncomfortable.

She said some of the text messages of concern were of the nature of telling the girls he loved them, and commenting on their looks.

But, police were never contacted about the allegations and Faries remained on as softball coach until he resigned in early February 2022.

A few weeks after that, several teens went to see Colonial Heights City Councilwoman Dr. Laura Poe to report concerns.

Poe's husband works for the Colonial Heights Police Department.

"It took a lot of courage for them to come forward," Poe said. "I had numerous female minors come to me providing me with testimony, including social media conversations, that were rather historical going back a couple of years, in addition to some text messages."

Poe said she immediately reached out to the Virginia State Police on March 2 and asked them to investigate.

"It was very disturbing to me, what is legal, illegal, criminal, or non-criminal, that is not up to me, that's up to the police department," Poe said.

Harrison was then asked to be the special prosecutor in the case.

When the investigation began, the City Manager for Colonial Heights, Douglas Smith, placed Faries on administrative leave.

In April 2022, Faries announced he would be retiring as chief.

Harrison met with the VSP on May 31, but after reviewing the evidence, she told Poe in a letter dated September 12 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."

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said that indicates there was no evidence of sexual assault or sexual battery.

"It's got to come down to what are the allegations? If the allegations are he didn't touch intimate parts but touched other parts in an unwanted manner then that's probably a simple assault and prosecution would be bound by 12-month statute of limitations," Stone said.

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.

"Certainly this is not an exoneration," Poe said. "There is certainly what is the behavior of the coach, but there is also what is the behavior of our highest position in law enforcement for the city, which is Chief of police. We do expect that our leaders have a certain level of discretion and decorum, and most especially for our Chief of police."

Harrison 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.

Faries declined a request to be interviewed for this report, however, in an email he wrote he was disappointed by how this was handled by the city:

I appreciate you reaching out to me. That being said I fully cooperated with the investigation and I was informed via email dated 9/14/22 that the case has been closed. I am sharing this email that clearly states they are declining prosecution due to lack of evidence and expiring statue of limitations.

I’ve coached for on and off for approx. 30 years and never had any complaints. This case centered around an alleged hug/contact from behind that occurred in a dugout or on the field either during a game or at a practice in 2021. That’s the venue where this occurred, If that was the setting then other adults and the team to include my own daughter would have been present. I have never hugged or made contact with a minor or an adult in an improper manner. Also know that the State searched my phone, lap top and work computer only to clear me that nothing was found to be illegal as all the content from my phone was returned to me.

I am disappointed how this was handled by the City as I have been the same person my entire career. I knew my standing as an At Will employee was limited so after much discussion with those close to me, I decided to retire April 1st, 2022. Since then I continued to fully cooperate with the investigation as I knew I did nothing wrong.

I, too, have filed a FOIA to the State and have been denied as I still don’t know who or what was exactly said and where it originally came from. I have never received any documentation from the City or the State regarding this investigation.

Please share that I appreciate all those in my community and surrounding communities that have reached out to give their support during this difficult time. I am proud of my almost 33 years of service to my profession and my City. I still continue being active serving others in the community.

We asked Colonial Heights Superintendent William Sroufe if the school division considered reporting the allegations to the Department of Education, Social Services, or State Police at the time the complaints came in, and why Faries was not removed from his role as coach at the time.

"This is a personnel matter, and I cannot comment further," Sroufe said.

The Problem Solvers also reached out to the Chair of the School Board, Chris Kollman, but he declined to answer our questions.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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