The superintendent of the new Prince William County-Manassas regional jail was suspended Monday without pay in connection with undisclosed allegations concerning the operation of the jail, according to officials of the the regional jail board created to operate the 164-prisoner facility in Manassas.
An attorney for suspended superintendent William Britton said yesterday he believed the action was taken in part because Britton made a Potomac News reporter a deputy in order to visit a condemned man in Mecklenburg State Correctional Center in southeast Virginia.
"We don't know what the allegations are or who is making them," said the lawyer, Terrence A. Emerson. "I believe the jail board has been quick on the trigger."
Potomac News reporter Dave Roman visited John Joseph LeVasseur, convicted last year of killing a Prince William woman, to interview him about an alleged gang rape he had suffered by death-row inmates.
Roman, who was permitted by Britton recently to spend three days in the county-city jail that opened last April to report on conditions there, declined yesterday to discuss the Jan. 4 Mecklenburg visit.
But a Potomac News story appearing under Roman's byline on Tuesday said Britton had agreed to let Roman accompany him to Mecklenburg to interview LeVasseur. At the last minute, when Britton was unable to make the trip, he gave Roman a sergeant's badge to wear to get him into the prison, the report said.
"I followed Britton into his office, where he produced a sergeant's badge, told me I was sworn in for the day, and pinned it on me," the story said.
Roman wrote that he signed into the prison as a corrections official and may have committed "a misdemeanor" in doing so, but that lawyers have called such actions a "gray area" of the law. He wrote that he was attempting to perform a public service by getting the inside story about prison rapes. The paper has yet to publish Roman's interview with LeVasseur.
Commonwealth's Attorney William Hamblen, chairman of the regional jail board, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He has previously refused to discuss the Britton investigation, which began about two weeks ago, before Roman's Mecklenburg visit.