I have known Stamos since I hired her as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in 1987. She has handled thousands of cases and more than 100 jury trials, ranging from speeding to murder. She has never had a case reversed on appeal, and there has not been a wrongful conviction in Arlington during her more than 30 years in the office. Her leadership as our commonwealth’s attorney since 2012 is a major reason a recent Arlington County government survey showed 98 percent of residents feel safe in their neighborhoods.
Stamos has been a leader in introducing reforms to keep people with substance abuse or mental health issues from being caught in an endless cycle of jail and relapse. She created Arlington’s Drug Court many years before many neighboring Northern Virginia jurisdictions did so. Partnering with the Arlington Public Schools, Stamos created the Second Chance program, which has diverted more than 500 of our young people with alcohol and drug issues, getting them the treatment they need without them ever having to go to court. She has worked for many years with the county’s Department of Human Services and the Sheriff’s Office to help many mentally ill defendants access immediate treatment and release from jail pending trial. Most recently, as a result of the town hall she convened on the opioid epidemic, Stamos created Operation Safe Station so people with addiction problems can turn in their illegal drugs and get referred immediately to treatment without fear of prosecution. These are real reforms that have led to Arlington having its lowest jail population in many years.
Stamos’s opponent, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, has no experience as a prosecutor and admitted at a recent debate that she has never handled a case in the courts of Arlington or Falls Church. She is running on a national agenda financed by tens of thousands of dollars from an out-of-state PAC that does not know or care about our community, our innovative programs or our professional, experienced public safety leadership. She only joined the Arlington Bar Association a month before she announced her candidacy and has virtually no record of involvement in Arlington.
I am also troubled by Dehghani-Tafti’s misleading or false accusations about Arlington. In one mailing, she claimed 70 percent of people who are in jail are there because they can’t pay their bail. That is false. In fact, according to the Sheriff’s Office, the correct number for Arlington is only 10 percent. In another piece of her campaign material, Dehghani-Tafti alleges widespread police brutality by the Arlington Police Department. That is false. The truth is that out of 100,000 citizen contacts in 2018, the department received only two complaints of excessive force. The commonwealth’s attorney cannot make misleading and untruthful statements such as these either while in office or seeking it. I didn’t, and neither does Stamos.
When she declared she wanted to be our commonwealth’s attorney, Dehghani-Tafti called Arlington’s criminal justice system “a mass incarceration machine on autopilot.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Arlington is a public safety success story. We have an enviably low crime rate in large part because of our exceptional police department and the experience and professionalism of our Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Arlington and Falls Church are wonderful communities in which to live, work and raise a family. The overwhelming majority of our citizens feel safe here. Do we really want this to change by electing someone with no experience and little knowledge of our community?