LEESBURG, Va. - Concerns about the commonwealth’s attorney’s office are growing louder in Loudoun County.
A county supervisor is speaking out saying the office failed to follow the law in a student sex assault case, and former attorneys from the office tell FOX 5, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj has come under fire for her handling of a case where a boy sexually assaulted a girl at one high school then was released and allowed to go to a different school where he did it again.
Caleb Kershner is a Loudoun County Supervisor, but also an attorney. He ended up representing the perpetrator at the end of the case.
In a Facebook post this weekend, Kershner wrote that the commonwealth’s attorney’s office was "simply unprepared to move forward with the case" within the 21-day window required by law when juveniles are held in custody.
This allowed the teen to be released and to re-offend. Biberaj has blamed a delay in rape kit evidence. Kershner also says the office didn’t follow the law when requesting the boy be put on the sex offender registry. A judge ultimately decided to keep the teen off the registry.
"Motions were not filed in advance. I became aware of that," Kershner told FOX 5. "Things weren’t done in a timely manner. So that’s some of the ongoing issues we have seen."
Kershner said the teen’s due process rights were violated. Beyond this one case, he says he’s heard concerns from a number of prior employees.
"You hear ongoing concerns in the office," he said.
FOX 5 has learned a former prosecutor and three staffers sounded the alarm to Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall in October 2020.
Former prosecutor Jason Faw wrote an email to Randall following the meeting. FOX 5 obtained the email exchange via FOIA after being alerted to its existence by the group Virginians for Safe Communities – an organization attempting to recall Biberaj.
Faw wrote to Randall: "When I worked there for 16 years I went to work every day asking how I could keep the citizens of Loudoun safe. The six months I worked there under Ms. Biberaj, that was not the focus."
He highlighted several cases he said made his stomach turn, complaining of leniency on crime the county hasn’t seen before.
Faw also wrote to Randall: "As I said when we were leaving yesterday’s meeting, I know a number of people there who have resorted to substance abuse (alcohol) to try to cope with getting through another day there. I worry about them."
In response, Randall wrote: "I admire the fact that you stayed so long with the treatment you (a seasoned attorney) received. I believe by meeting with me, you are, in fact still caring for the people who work in the office. Yesterday I had a discussion with County Administrator, Tim Hemstreet. There are actually some things we can do to help protect staff. By protecting staff I believe it will force this issue in the media thereby making people aware that she is not prosecuting people who are of danger to our community."
FOX 5 spoke to multiple former prosecutors, all of whom requested anonymity since they continue to work in the legal field.
One said "I wanted to help victims of sex assault and domestic violence. It was chaos. A lot of practices conflicted with my values."
Another said: "I can deal with going easier on drug dealers or not putting people in jail, I can deal with that. I think it’s reckless and incredibly dangerous," but went on to say the bigger problem is Biberaj’s management style that’s caused massive turnover in the office.
"The one thing that’s continued to be a concern for me is the personnel issues within that office" Kershner said. "The previous commonwealth’s attorney’s office I think there were probably between 15-20 attorneys. There’s only one that remains with that office."
It hasn’t been just attorneys from the prior administration to go, there have been those who Biberaj hired herself who have come and gone over the two years she’s been in office.
A former attorney who was hired by Biberaj said, "One of the difficult things for me is there wasn’t a huge amount of experience in the office. And because of that, there wasn’t the kind of training that needs to happen when handling certain cases."
There are currently at least three open attorney positions that have been posted for over six months.
FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts has made repeated requests to schedule an interview with Biberaj about concerns, starting in October. On Monday, she contacted Biberaj and her spokeswoman multiple times about this story but was unable to schedule an interview.
Watts saw Biberaj near her office Monday evening and asked again to schedule the interview.
Biberaj said her schedule has been tight and indicted she would sit down for an interview Friday.