A Northern Virginia man who amassed one of the worst driving records in the state last year stayed out of jail and on the road for months with the help of Fairfax County prosecutors.
Greg Warfield, 25, a confessed drug addict and former informant for federal and county drug authorities, says the prosecutor's office routinely interceded with traffic officials in exchange for his continued cooperation in major heroin busts.
Warfield says, and Fairfax prosecutors confirm, that an assistant prosecutor got serious traffic charges against Warfield reduced or asked for a lighter penalty despite the fact Warfield had several times enough penalty points to warrant suspension of his license.
The prosecutor's office this week put the number of points at 35, although Warfield says it was 57. A Virginia driver's license normally is suspended when 13 or more points are accumulated in a two-year period.
Warfield says he considered such special treatment a "fringe benefit" of informing. "I had this feeling no one could touch me because I had all these people backing me up," he says. "I disregarded the speed limit. I had a feeling of immunity."
Warfield, whose license finally was lifted last September, was arrested at least twice for driving with a suspended license, but was spared a mandatory jail sentence after Fairfax prosecutors intervened.
Fairfax chief prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said this week that his office has intervened dozens of times on behalf of informants charged with traffic violations, trespassing, disorderly conduct, curse and abuse and other misdemeanors unrelated to their undercover work.
Horan said it was "virtually impossible" to tally how many of the county's informants have gotten special treatment because many of the cases are handled by his assistants and are not brought to his attention.
"There is nothing illegal or unethical about it," said Horan.
The decision to give an informant special treatment is made on a case by case basis, weighing the value of his services to the police against the harm he has caused society by his misconduct, Horan said.
Warfield, like many informants, received substantial benefits for his work. These included the dropping of a charge for selling cocaine that carried a 5-to-40 year jail sentence, and payments of thousands of dollars by the Drug Enforcement Agency for his services.
Warfield said he piled up six speeding convictions, plus convictions for driving a car with defective equipment, expired inspection stickers, expired registration, improper U-turn, driving without a license in his possession, and driving with a suspended license (for failure to pay fines) in the year and a half before the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles took his license away.
A spate of speeding tickets he got in early 1978 were related to his undercover work, according to Warfield, who says he was under heavy pressure at the time from county and U.S. drug agents. He frequently received last-minute notice of a drug buy he had to attend.
Former assistant prosecutor John Graham acknowledged this week that he intervened on Warfield's behalf two or three times because of the "instrumental" role Warfield was playing in the investigation of heroin traffic in the county.
On one occasion, in 1978, Graham said he personally reduced a charge against Warfield from driving with a suspended license to driving without a license in his possession. The change spared Warfield a mandatory jail sentence and a more serious violation.
"I spoke to the arresting officer and asked if he minded the change," said Graham.
On July 7, 1978, in an unrelated incident, Warfield was convicted in Norfolk of driving with a suspended license and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Warfield said he spent only one day in jail -- as long as it took him to telephone Fairfax prosecutors.
Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney Joseph Campbell acknowledges receiving a call from Graham asking that the balance of the sentence be suspended because Warfield was an informant.
Warfield's sentence was suspended that day at Campbell's request, according to Campbell.
"There may have been other times, but I forget the circumstances," said Graham.
Graham, who left the prosecutor's office in April, is now in private practice. One of his clients is Warfield, whom he is representing in pending traffic offenses.
About the time Graham left the prosecutor's office, Warfield, no longer an informant, was ticketed by Fairfax officer Michael Spradlin, again for driving on a suspended license.
Sometime before the June 7 trial, at which Graham represented Warfield, the charge was amended. Driving while under suspension for a bad driving record became driving while under suspension for failing to have insurance.Fairfax police say the change, which enabled Warfield to avoid a mandatory jail sentence, occurred in the Fairfax prosecutor's office.