A Richmond Circuit Court ruled Thursday that Gov. Bob McDonnell acted properly when he reversed his predecessor's request to transfer convicted murderer and former University of Virginia honors student Jens Soering to Germany.
In one of his last acts as governor, Gov. Tim Kaine (D) said he would allow Soering to serve time in his native Germany.
But in one of his first reversals of his predecessor’s actions, McDonnell (R) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder revoking the state’s consent to the transfer, saying he had been deluged by those opposing Kaine’s action. Holder agreed to keep him in Virginia.
Soering had fought the reversal, questioning whether McDonnell had the authority to reverse course. His lawsuit asked the court to decide whether McDonnell’s action was within his statutory or constitutional authority.
In a four-page ruling, the judge determined McDonnell’s actions were appropriate.
“The governor is pleased by today’s decision,’’ McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. “Jens Soering committed a heinous and gruesome crime when he killed two innocent Virginians. The governor believes he must serve his full sentence in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is why he revoked the transfer agreement put in place by the prior Administration. He is pleased to see the Court agree with his authority to take that action in order to ensure that justice will be served in this case.”
Soering, the son of a German diplomat, was convicted by a Bedford County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first-degree murder in the 1985 killings of his girlfriend’s parents in a case that made international headlines.
The issue is playing out in the U.S. Senate race, with Republicans accusing Democratic nominee Kaine of failing to explain his reasons for requesting the transfer. Kaine has said Germany, not Virginia, should spend money on Soering’s incarceration.