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Loudoun County Hellscape Part I.5: Indictments Issued
What does it all mean?
Part II of our series discussing Loudoun County Public Schools’ reckless disregard for women’s safety will be published later this week (for more background, please read Part I of this series). But I felt an update was needed before that. This week, the court unsealed four indictments against two Loudoun County Public School employees. I want to express again my appreciation for the efforts of Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and the special grand jury. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all.
Fired superintendent Scott Ziegler, who lied to the public, denying the rape that occurred in a school restroom under his watch, got “one count of misdemeanor false publication (Va. Code § 18.2-209), one count of misdemeanor prohibited conduct (Va. Code § 2.2-3103), and one count of misdemeanor penalizing an employee for a court appearance (Va. Code § 18.2-465.1).” Still current Public Information Officer (which is unbelievable, although he has been “put on leave”) Wayde Byard has been charged with “one count of felony perjury (Va. Code § 18.2-434).”
What does it all mean? For Ziegler, the false publication charge and the penalizing an employee for a court appearance charge are merely class 3 misdemeanors, which only carry “a fine not more than $500.” Given the outrageous package deal he got when he was dismissed “without cause” (yes, still fuming about that!), these charges alone would serve as a great insult to the victims and the community. Not to mention a great incentive for the next public official to take the chance of lying to the public when in hot waters.
On the other hand, the one count of prohibited conduct carries the possibility of “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” The $2,500 hardly puts a hole in the $300,000 plus Ziegler is receiving from taxpayers. We can pray that that may be stopped somehow. That’s what should happen on the money side. But the talk of jail time at least feels like we are having a serious conversation about the proper consequences for the harm done here and making it clear to the next public official tempted to lie and behave in this manner, putting children’s lives at risk. The challenge for the attorney general, then, is to come through with a serious prosecution on behalf of these victims and the public. All indications are that he will do just that, and our prayers are with him and his team as they pursue this righteous cause.
Byard’s perjury charge is a class 5 felony, which carries “a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” Also, and perhaps even more appropriate for the positions of trust these public servants held, a person convicted of perjury, “shall be adjudged forever incapable of holding any office of honor, profit or trust under the Constitution of Virginia, or of serving as a juror.”
One of the most outrageous things about this case is that many of the public officials who failed to protect these young women are still in charge of the security and safety of students today. They just pinky swear they’ll do better in the future.
Parents must demand accountability. We must demand justice for the victims and our children.