Two Fairfax County teen-agers convicted of arson in last winter's burning of fort Hunt High School were freed last Friday after serving 3 1/2 months of their one-year prison sentences.
Reacting angrily to the teen-agers' release, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. yesterday condemned sentencing procedures in Virginia as "really crazy" and "terribly misleading" to the public.
The prosecutor also cited the treatment granted convicted Northern Virginia bingo operator Alva ford (Fordie) Thompson as typical of the "Alice in Wonderland" sentences imposed in the commonwealth.
Thompson, convicted as "the treatment granted convicted Northern Virginia bingo imposed in the commonwealth.
Thompson, convicted as "the chief man" in illegal gambling operations that earned more than $1 million and sentenced to four years in prison, spent two months in jail before he was released to a program allowing him to run his own talent-booking agency in Alexandria.
Horan, one of the most influential prosecutors in Virginia, said changes this year in state sentencing regulations and what he called the excessive authority granted the state Department of Corrections make it difficult for judges, prosecutors and the public to figure out how long a convicted felon will be kept in prison.
The sentencing changes, passed into law this year by the Virginia General Assembly, generally shorten prison terms by moving up the date on which prisoners become eligible for parole.
The purposes of the changes, which require that prisoners be monitored after their release, are to smooth the transition from jail to outside life and relieve prison crowing, the law's patrons say.
Although some area defense attorneys criticized Horan's statements yesterday, courtroom comments by the judges involved in the Fort Hunt and bingo cases support Horan's contention that sentencing procedure in Virginia is confusing.
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Lewis H. Griffith, who on July 13 sentenced Timothy M. Greer, 19, and Robert P. Smithwick, 18, to one year in prison for arson, said at the time that the two youths would be eligible for parole after serving six months in jail.
Since Greer and Smithwick had had their bonds revoked in March and had spent three months in custody on the arson charges, it appeared that they had about three more months to serve in jail.
Contacted yesterday and informed that the youths had been released from jail 2 1/2 months before he apparently thought they would be, Griffith refused comment. The judge said he could not discuss the case because Matthew Musolino III, the third youth involved in the Fort Hunt fire, has not been sentenced yet.
In the bingo case, the judge involved in sentencing Thompson Rejected Thompson's impassioned plea in court last February that he be allowed to participate in a workrelease program.
Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Middleton said yesterday that he didn't know what Thompson was doing now. "I certainly didn't recommend work release. I sentenced him to jail and that's the last I know of it officiall," Middleton said.
Thompson, 46, convicted last winter of running illegal bingo games in alexandria and Fairfax County, has been working since April at his talent agency in Alexandria and spending his night in the Loudoun County jail.
"Thompson is self-employed," said Deputy Bill James, who runs the Loudoun County work-relase program.
"He is taking care of his own business while on the program. He is superviser to some degree, but he is essentially doing his own kind of business."
James said that business, called Metropolitan Talent Agency, involves booking musical entertainment for restaurants and clubs in the Washington area. Except for a payment for his room and board at the Loudoun jail, a state Department of Corrections spokesman said Thompson is allowed to keep all his business profits.
Thompson was sent to the Loudoun jail, instead of the a state prison, after Loudoun Sheriff Robert W. Legard formally requested the transfer.
Wayne Farrar, of the state Department of Corrections, said it is "fairly common" for county sheriffs to request that a state prisoner be kept at a county jail.
Sheriff Legard could not be reached yesterday for comment on why he asked that Thompson stay in the Loudoun jail.
Prosecutor Horan said yesterday he thought it a miscarriage of justice for Thompson to be "his own boss" and for youths convicted in the Fort Hunt fire to get out of jail so quickly.
"What does a sentence mean" Horan asked. "When a judge gives somebody a year it should means something. It should not automatically means three months."
Louis Koutoulakos, defense lawyer for Timothy Greer, said yesterday that Horan's complaint "distresses" him.
"It seems to be the fad that prosecutors don't just prosecute. They want to dictate the ultimate disposition of the case. It is my strong view that a prosecutor ought to go ahead and do his job, and then, once the trial is over, shut up," Koutoulakos said.
Both Greer and Smitwick, in addition to their jail sentences, were ordered by Judge Griffith to complete 3,000 hours of volunteer community work and pay $10,000 in financial restitution for their role in the Fort Hunt arson.
The sponsor of the recent changes in Virginia's sentencing laws said yesterday that cutting prison terms by six months and placing convicts under close supervision for that period is "a positive step in attempts to rehabilitate convicted criminals.
"Before, an inmate would have gone out on the street could," said Del. Frank M. Slayton (D-South Boston).
Horan, replaying to Slayton, said he was concerned that Thompson and those involved in the Fort Hunt arson "were not in jail long enough to worry about comming out cold or hot. It is like they went on a short vacation."