LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. - After a Loudoun County judge removed the local Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office from a case, the Virginia attorney general says his office is prepared to step in, calling the move "unprecedented."
On Monday, Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote a letter to the chief judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit saying it’s clear the court "has rightfully lost confidence" in Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj and her office. Miyares said his office is ready to prosecute or assist with the case if needed.
The case involves a burglary suspect, Kevin Enrique Valle, accused in 12 burglary cases across four Northern Virginia counties, including Loudoun.
The judge handling two of the Loudoun burglaries has accused the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office of "deliberately misleading the court and the public" in effort to get a more lenient sentence for the suspect.
According to Judge James Plowman, who is the former Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney, prosecutor Michele Burton offered a six-month plea deal to Valle. And to get it, she didn’t include information about the other burglary charges and downplayed Valle’s criminal past.
Plowman said Burton showed an inability to prosecute the case "consistent with professional standards," and ordered the entire office be removed and disqualified from the case.
Plowman said Fauquier County will take over the case and recused himself from it.
It was May 2021 when investigators say Valle and another man smashed into a vape shop in Sterling overnight.
Shane Peterman, manager of Sterling Smoke and Vape, said cash and expensive vape products were stolen. He remembers walking into work that morning.
"The front door was shattered. The register had been torn out, like the entire cash drawer," Peterman said. "I kind of felt violated, somebody was in here overnight. I have personal things here. My son’s picture is on the fridge."
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office says the two suspects broke into another business in Ashburn before they were caught. Valle is also facing a slew of charges in Prince William, Fauquier and Fairfax counties stemming from burglary cases there from around the same time period.
A-1 Cycling in Herndon was one of the small businesses police say Valle targeted. Manager Jacob Shortt said his glass window was also smashed and the entire register stolen. He said limited cash was taken and the most expensive element of the crime was the broken glass.
"It left us with a situation where we couldn’t lock the doors because the window is busted open," Shortt said. "The owner actually had to camp out overnight because we couldn’t get the glass company out until the following day."
A-1’s owner said the case in Fairfax has been delayed multiple times. There was a plea hearing scheduled for Monday, but it was postponed for two weeks according to a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. She said there are no details yet on the plea agreement there.
Peterman and the vape shop’s owner said they were never informed about the plea agreement in their case in Loudoun. When told what was offered, they said it should have been harsher considering the suspect’s history.
"Everyone deserves a second chance, but not a 10th, 11th and 12th chance," Peterman said.
Valle is being represented by the Law Office of John Boneta.
Boneta declined comment.
FOX 5 has reached out multiple times to Biberaj, but she has provided no comment, even though a spokesperson in her office said Monday afternoon that they were working on a statement.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall provided a statement that reads:
"When meting out justice, it’s imperative to temper that justice with mercy, and common sense. When charges or sentences are overly punitive, they leave little room for fairness, let alone rehabilitation.
However, when charging or sentencing is too lenient and does not match the offense, or worse when public officials trusted to bring appropriate charges fail in their mission, it puts the public in greater danger. I believe Loudoun’s Commonwealth Attorney should remember her first duty is to ensure, to the greatest degree possible, the safety of the citizens of Loudoun County."