Prosecutor's Ex-Aide Guilty of Altering File
Thursday, March 29, 2007
A former top administrative assistant in the Fairfax County prosecutor's office was convicted yesterday of a felony for erasing a man's drunken-driving conviction and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.
The jury verdict and sentence for forging a public document was more bad news for the office of Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., which was criticized last week for reducing charges against a rape suspect who then received a 16-month sentence.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh apologized yesterday to the victim, told her he had taken all felony cases away from the assistant prosecutor involved, Toni S. Fay, and said he did not believe Fay's version of the case.
The administrative assistant who was convicted yesterday, Cecilia A. Ruiz, 30, was well-known around the courthouse, first as a clerk in traffic court, then as an aide in the prosecutor's office, eventually rising to a position where she assisted Horan and Morrogh.
In August 2004, Annandale resident Munir S. Dellawar was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated. Dellawar testified that he was trying to get his real estate license and wanted to avoid a DWI conviction. He said he had a friend who claimed to know someone in the courthouse who could help him.
The friend, Cesar Monteverde, introduced him to Ruiz. Dellawar, 30, said that he and Monteverde met with Ruiz and that she explained how she could make his case go away. He said Ruiz told him to plead guilty to DWI, regardless of his attorney's advice, and then file an appeal when the attorney was gone.
The appeal file would then go to the commonwealth's attorney's office. "She said she would go and take that folder out," Dellawar testified. He said that he asked her about the computer records and that Ruiz told him, " 'I have access to everything.' Whatever information was left, she was going to scramble it."
Dellawar said he did as he was told, pleading guilty in November 2004. A couple of weeks later, Dellawar said, he met Ruiz in the parking lot of the Chuck E. Cheese's pizza parlor in Fairfax City. There, Ruiz provided him with a certified copy of his new court record, showing that his case had been reduced to driving in an HOV lane. A grateful Dellawar said he then paid Ruiz $1,000.
But when Dellawar, who had the vanity license plate "R3LTOR," was pulled over several months later, the officer who originally had arrested him heard the plate read on the police radio. Officer Douglas Middlebrooks also had been present for Dellawar's guilty plea. He testified that he drove over and questioned Dellawar, who denied the DWI arrest. But after Dellawar was released, Middlebrooks persisted, and a police investigation led to Ruiz's arrest.
Ruiz did not testify at the trial and declined to comment. Her attorney, Lavonda Graham, called Dellawar a "proven liar and a manipulator" who had "ruined the life of an innocent woman." Retired Fairfax Circuit Court Judge J. Howe Brown will decide June 29 whether Ruiz should serve the full 3 1/2 years.
The case was prosecuted by Prince William County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney James A. Willett because of Ruiz's connection to the Fairfax prosecutor's office.
While Ruiz's case was being decided, Morrogh was meeting with the victim of a beating and sexual assault in Fairfax City. The suspect, Eugene A. Marriott Jr. of Clinton, an ordained minister, had been charged with rape, sodomy, abduction with intent to defile and malicious wounding. In November, he pleaded guilty to the abduction charge, facing a 20-year minimum sentence.
But two days before his sentencing March 16, Fay agreed to reduce the charge of abduction with intent to defile to simple abduction, and reduce the rape and sodomy charges to misdemeanors, so that Marriott would not have to register as a sex offender. The victim and two police officers said Fay never told them of the change. Fay said she did.
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Stanley P. Klein, who still could have given Marriott as much as 10 years for simple abduction and five years for wounding, sentenced the minister to 16 months.
"I expressed regret for the actions of Toni Fay," Morrogh said he told the victim. "It's an embarrassment to our office and a disgrace."
Fay acknowledged she had cut the deal with Marriott without consulting anyone in her office, but she contended that she had told the victim and the investigator, Fairfax City Detective Edward C. Vaughan. The victim and Vaughan denied that.
"I've known Ed Vaughan 24 years," Morrogh said. "He's an honest man, and I believe him 100 percent. I also believe the victim." Morrogh said that he was "mystified [Fay] did what she did," and that Horan was reviewing whether to take further steps against her.
The victim said she was satisfied with Morrogh's explanation but wondered whether more would come of her case. "I did my part," she wrote in a letter to Horan. "Your system failed me."