Fairfax County prosecutor Raymond F. Morrogh said police repeatedly refused to provide internal affairs records of the Fairfax police officer who shot and killed a Springfield man in 2013, and county officials vowed to put up a fight should he try to seek them through court action.
The revelations came in a letter Morrogh sent on Friday to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) after the senator last week asked the county prosecutor about his actions in the case and whether the Fairfax police had cooperated with him. Morrogh said he referred the case to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria in January because he “was convinced that the public could not have complete confidence in an investigation where one arm of the police department was cooperating with the prosecutor while the Chief and Internal Affairs Section along with the Office of the County Attorney were seeking to withhold information, albeit for reasons which they believed entitled them to do so.”
Morrogh was trying to determine whether charges should be filed in the August 2013 slaying of Geer, 46, who was unarmed when he was shot once in the chest as he stood in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse. In his letter to Grassley, Morrogh said that after the Fairfax county attorney told him for the third time that they would fight him in court over the documents, he sent the case to federal authorities in Alexandria the very next day.
Fairfax County officials did not immediately comment Tuesday. The police have been advised by the office of County Attorney David Bobzien and his assistants Cynthia Tianti and Karen Gibbons.
The letter, released Tuesday, exposes a feud which had been quietly simmering for months between the top Fairfax prosecutor and the Fairfax police, typically two agencies which work closely together to investigate and prosecute crime. And it shows that even before Morrogh had received the full investigative file from Fairfax’s homicide unit in early December 2013, he had begun inquiring into the background of the officer suspected of killing Geer.
The officer’s name still has not been released, and Morrogh declined to say Tuesday why he wanted the officer’s internal affairs files. But on Monday, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows ordered Fairfax police to provide the Geer family’s lawyers most of the police investigative file for the four months prior to the case being shifted to federal authorities, to include the names of all the officers involved. Fairfax said it will not appeal the order and has 30 days to provide the records, with personal identifying data redacted.
Morrogh said in his letter he first met with police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., an internal affairs captain and three lawyers from the county attorney’s office on Nov. 14, 2013 and requested the officer’s files in previous cases. The police refused, citing two federal cases in which information from internal police investigations — where officers are required to cooperate -- was prohibited from use in criminal cases, where officers may remain silent. The police also cited Virginia freedom of information law, which allows police to withhold any investigative reports, “executive privilege” and “privacy concerns,” Morrogh said.
“The decision made by the Chief of Police and his advisors to withhold the requested materials,” Morrogh said, “effectively prevented me from completing the investigation and rendering my decision.”
Roessler did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Mike Lieberman, a lawyer for the Geer family, said that “Morrogh’s letter raises troubling questions concerning the procedures employed by Fairfax County in police shooting cases. Hopefully, this will lead to changes in those procedures so that no family will ever have to endure what the Geer family has had to face during these last 16 months.”