On a day when Virginia lawmakers called on a committee to fully investigate the allegations and misconducts of members of the Virginia Parole Board, Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin received a leaked report from the Office of the State Inspector General’s office that confirmed something that she already believed to be true.
It was Thursday of last week when Martin received a report from a member of the media that confirms that OSIG found the parole board in violation of the law when it came to the release of Debra Scribner who had been convicted of murder and related conspiracy and firearm charges in the 2011 shooting death of Eric Wynn.
“The allegations are substantiated. VPB (Virginia Parole Board) did not follow the COV (Commonwealth of Virginia) statutes and VPB policies and procedures in notifying the CA (Commonwealth Attorney) and victims regarding the release of DKS,” the report by Michael C. Westfall, state inspector general, states.
Martin had asked the parole board in April 2020 to rescind and reconsider its decision to grant Scribner geriatric parole, set a recession hearing and invite the public to give testimony.
She, along with Kevin Wynn, the brother of Eric, alleged the parole did not follow their protocols in contacting them prior to Scribner’s release.
Martin received a letter dated April 6 informing her that Scribner has been granted discretionary parole.
“She was released to return to the community, it seems, before the ink was dry on the April 6, 2020 letter,” Martin wrote in a letter sent to Tonya Chapman, chair of the Virginia Parole Board, in late April.
But, in fact, Scribner was released from Central Virginia Correctional Unit for supervision on April 1.
Also in April, Wynn said, “I never received anything. I never heard anything. If I would have, I would have been there.
“I’m angry that she’s out, and I’m angry that no one bothered to contact me. It feels like a slap in the face. Why does she deserve a second chance when my brother doesn’t get one?”
Virginia Code says notification shall be sent to the victim’s “last address provided to the board,” and they “shall endeavor diligently to contact the victim prior to making any decision to release any inmate on discretionary parole.” It also says the Commonwealth’s Attorney should be notified at least 21 days prior to the release.
Chapman also said at that time that there was no victim registered in their Victim Information Notification Every Day (VINE) system. She said the phone numbers were showing disconnected, but they were able to find the address through a separate database.
But, Wynn said he has the same phone number now that he had in 2012, lives at the same address with the same post office box and was not aware of Scribner’s release until a few days after she was home.
In explaining Scribner’s parole, Chapman also said in April, “upon her release, the commonwealth’s attorney was notified.”
She also said Wynn was sent a letter in the mail, but would not provide a copy of the letter saying the parole board is exempt from Freedom of Information Act.
In the state inspector general report, it states that the parole board did not provide notification to the Commonwealth’s Attorney within the statutory time frame. OSIG confirmed that the CA received the letter dated April 6 on April 16 and that Scribner was released on April 1.
The state inspector general also found that the parole board did not “endeavor diligently” to contact victims prior to making any decision to release the offense, as stated in Virginia Code 53.155, as stated in the report.
The report’s findings also said Scribner was first eligible for release in November of 2018 and received her first review in January 2019, and the OSIG report states, “VPB did not notify the victims of this review” – a piece of information Martin was not previously aware of.
The report states the parole board sent a victim notification letter in January of 2020 to the wrong person at the wrong address.
“Due to the lact of statutory notifications, VPB did not receive any opposition until April 20, 2020,” the OSIG report states.
Last week was the first time Martin had seen the OSIG report in its entirety.
In late September, she had sent a FOIA request to the Office of the State Inspector General, but after saying that “all Virginia Parole Board information provided to OSIG to conduct this administrative Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline investigation is exempt from FOIA under Code of Virginia,” they provided an almost fully redacted version of the report.
The redacted version only states the case number, and “The allegations are substantiated.”
After reading the full report, Martin said, “this reveals a level of sincere dysfunction of the whole Virginia Parole Board.”
She also said, “To see people in this position of trust violating the law, suppressing information and hiding from accountability is like waking up in a nightmare.”
This case is one of several that OSIG has investigated over the past year, with one being the parole board’s handling of the case of Vincent Martin, who was convicted in the 1979 killing of Richmond police Officer Michael Connors.
Also last week, Senator Bryce Reeves’ (R-Spotsylvania) and Senator John Bell (D-Loudoun) sent a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting a select committee be convened to fully investigate the allegations and misconduct of members of the Virginia Parole Board.
Their letter states, “Based on the current Virginia Inspector General Report from June 2020 on the dealings of the Virginia Parole Board, it’s been revealed “that Judge Adrienne Bennett and current chair Tonya Chapman, both, violated multiple state codes and policies and violated the constitution of Virginia. These are serious damaging allegations and we are requesting that a special select committee be formulated to investigate the actions and behaviors currently surrounding the Virginia Parole Board.”
And, Martin hopes they follow through with it.
“We all deserve answers,” she concluded.