The efforts of Virginia General Assembly Delegates Bill Janis (R-Goochland County) and Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County) to delay or kill the reappointment of Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander appear to be partisan politics at its worst. The two delegates’ actions could derail the most important law suit and trial in Virginia in decades—the suit against Virginia Tech officials by the parents of slain students Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson.
Judge Alexander recently ruled there is enough evidence of gross negligence that the suit against several current and former Virginia Tech officials, including school president, Charles Steger, can go forward. This ruling did not go over well with the right wing glitterati of Virginia’s body politic, some of whom argue no one can be held responsible for someone else’s actions. Therefore, Seung Hui Cho, and only Seung Hui Cho, is responsible for the mass killings at Virginia Tech.
The problem with that position is the failure to take into account the concept of “foreseeability,” a principle that says if the warning signs are readily apparent, and individuals who are aware of those signs do nothing, then those individuals can be held responsible for their inaction. If you look at the number of warning signs at Virginia Tech—the number is staggering. What more of a warning do you want than a professor threatening to resign unless a student (Cho) is removed from her class because she fears for her safety and the safety of her students?
Judge Alexander’s ruling was, therefore, a blow to the ostentatious right. Janis and Poindexter may have decided to seize another issue to delay or stop the judge’s reappointment in order to mask their real motive. It appears the issue they chose was Alexander’s decision to release a grand jury report after the indictment of Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt. The sheriff was indicted on charges of keeping improper records about the employment of his daughter.
Delegate Janis has publicly acknowledged that the judge had the authority to release the report, which the judge did in response to a motion filed by the special prosecutor in the case, Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney, David Grimes. If Judge Alexander had the right to grant the motion, then what is Delegate Janis doing other than playing politics?
It should also be noted that Sheriff Hunt is a Republican sheriff and his attorney is Bill Stanley, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. If the Judge’s ruling on the Virginia Tech lawsuit is not part of the two delegates’ motives, their actions are just as shameful. They would then be guilty of putting partisan politics ahead of school safety. The outcome of the lawsuit filed by the Pryde and Peterson families could easily spell the difference between safe and unsafe schools in this state. The simple fact is that unless people in positions of authority are held responsible for their actions; unless they understand they will pay a price for inaction, Virginia schools will never be safe.
NOTE: Mike Pohle alerted me the delaying tactics of Delegates Janis and Poindexter. Teresa and Michael Pohle lost their son, Michel, at Virginia Tech on April 15, 2007. Before publishing this blog, I asked Mike to comment on its content. The following are his comments:
My reaction is that this is just another of the never ending tactics on the part of state government to ensure the cover-up of the VT Massacre stays intact. In this instance, the charade is being orchestrated by Republicans to not only to protect a corrupt Republican Sheriff, but, the current Republican Governor. What is more appalling is that they do not care if they destroy the career, and integrity, of Judge Alexander. As long as their backsides are covered, that collateral damage is more than acceptable. This behavior also clearly demonstrates why the majority of Americans are correct in their low regard for politicians. My deceased father used to say that politicians were lower than used car salesmen. I send my apologies to used car salesmen for putting them in the same category.