Prosecutor Stands By Actions

Richard Ward, a supporter of my opponent for commonwealth's attorney, has been quoted both in the press ["Contesting Prosecutor's Account," Letters, Aug. 29] and by my opponent as being critical of my office. Mr. Ward was a victim of a break-in and larceny on Oct. 6, 1997, and he alleges that he was made to waste time in court, was not kept informed about the case and was required to do the prosecutor's job in a preliminary hearing.

My opponent's and Mr. Ward's claim that Mr. Ward had to do the prosecutor's job in the preliminary hearing is entirely incorrect, and I have provided a copy of the official transcript of the proceeding to prove it. Mr. Ward claims that he personally addressed the judge because the prosecutor did not prove the value of his stolen property was worth more than $200.

The 14th question the prosecutor asked of Mr. Ward was, "What was the value to you of the chain saw on October the 5th?" Mr. Ward's answer was, "Um, it was $279, something like that." The 21st question the prosecutor asked of Mr. Ward was, "What was the value to you of the used weed-eater as of October?" The prosecutor clarified that question at the 23rd question: "If you were to find one on the market in the same condition as yours was in October." Mr. Ward's answer was "$200."

Nowhere in this official transcript of the preliminary hearing, which was created and prepared by a court reporter employed by Oak Grove Reporting, does it indicate that Mr. Ward addressed the court independently. Indeed, since the Commonwealth established through its direct examination of Mr. Ward the threshold $200 minimum value required to send a felony larceny on for trial, such added information from Mr. Ward would have been useless.

The preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 25, 1997. The case was continued in court on that date on the Commonwealth's motion because an essential witness, who had been properly subpoenaed by the Commonwealth, did not appear.

Whenever the court calls a case, the name of the case is called out loud in the courtroom. That happened in this case, and the prosecutor moved for the continuance in open court and explained in open court the reason for the necessity of the continuance.

I have no explanation for why Mr. Ward did not hear the case called or the Commonwealth move for the continuance. Since he did not speak to anyone in our office about that situation, I do not know the circumstances that caused him to miss the continuance. In each of the three subpoenas Mr. Ward received, there was typed in bold letters, "immediately upon receipt of this subpoena, please contact the Victim Witness Program at 703-777-0249."

Despite his claim that he was made to wait each time he came to court, the second time that Mr. Ward appeared, he was called to the stand within 30 minutes of the judge ascending to the bench. Since more than one felony preliminary hearing is scheduled for any given day in court, such waiting periods are not unusual, although they are unavoidable.

The Victim Witness Program, which underwent restructuring two years ago at my direction to provide comprehensive services to victims and witnesses, is responsible for issuing all witness subpoenas in felony cases. The policy in this office is that Victim Witness maintains these subpoenas and, should a continuance arise in the court date, calls off the witnesses.

Any witness who comes for court would either report to Victim Witness, as instructed by the subpoena, to be directed to the appropriate courtroom, or would have to consult the posted docket to find out in which courtroom the case is being heard. It is inconceivable that someone would go into any courtroom and wait for six hours without asking someone for help. Under my administration, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has vastly increased its services to victims of crime--both through enhancements in staffing to meet the rapidly growing caseload and the provision of comprehensive services to crime victims. While there is an occasional "human" error, every effort has been made to eliminate them.


Commonwealth's Attorney

Limit the Drain on Ground Water

If Loudoun's drought creates action on the crisis in rural ground water supplies, then at least one good thing will have been accomplished. Supervisors Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge) and Jim Burton (I-Mercer) have spoken out for years on this critical issue. Let's hope their colleagues now listen.

An analysis of the potential residential buildup in rural Loudoun will certainly show a potential for tens of thousands of additional houses requiring well water (at an estimate of 250 gallons per day). Western Loudoun towns are recognizing that the potential buildings in their Urban Growth Areas and other rural enterprises will be competing for the same ground water. Agriculture can't survive without adequate water resources.

Stream and well monitoring are needed. But we can't wait for years while a "database" is developed that is likely to show that rural Loudoun cannot support its projected growth. Under Virginia law, if your neighbor's well makes yours go dry, you are just out of luck. There is no compensation or recourse.

The now-defunct Department of Environmental Resources published the "Interpretive Guide to Geology and Groundwater in Loudoun County, Virginia" in 1993. It showed that Loudoun's ground water depends on recharge from our mountain areas (Blue Ridge, Short Hills and Catoctin) and the limestone area between Route 15 and the Potomac. Yet we have no building restrictions in these areas, except the standard steep-slope control, and they remain in A-3 zoning (one dwelling per three acres).

The Board of Supervisors should immediately require an "aquifer test" for all new residential subdivisions. This may include a pumping test, slug test and/or dye testing. The test demonstrates the effect of future wells on surrounding wells and ground water supplies. The county should limit future wells (and therefore the number of houses) to the number that will not affect the wells of neighbors.

The county is obligated to protect the public health, safety and welfare. Clearly an aggressive program to safeguard rural ground water meets this criteria.


Round Hill

The Issue Is Simply Sprawl

The daily Post's daily barrage of front page headlines on traffic congestion distorts the truth--and the sense of the articles.

The fundamental problem is bad land use, as reports by Alan Sipress, Dan Eggen, Justin Blum and others make clear. Too much development is going in the wrong places, such as rural and fringe suburban areas. Subsidizing the high-tech industry to locate in the outer suburbs, away from Metro or other infrastructure, compounds the problem.

The land-use problem is often pursued in the body of these daily articles, but the headlines and opening paragraphs obscure it. Why? The Post editors are missing the boat. Traffic is merely an important consequence of sprawl. Sprawl, with its many costs to taxpayers, is the quality-of-life issue for people all over the Washington region.




Loudoun Extra welcomes your opinions, which run on Thursdays and Sundays. Letters, which may be edited for length, should include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers so we can verify authorship. Deadlines are noon Tuesday for Thursday publication and noon Thursday for Sunday publication. Send them to:

Letters to the Editor

305 Harrison St. SE

Leesburg, Va. 20175

Fax: 703-777-8437