VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL KILGORE
The silence related to the threatening e-mail Angie Dales received before her murder remains deafening. Frustrated and angered, and acting on behalf of Angie’s parents, I turned to Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. But, once again double-speak returned—more sophisticated, but double-speak nevertheless.
Following the shootings, Attorney General Kilgore released the following statement:
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the shootings that injured and killed innocent people at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.
At the same time we experience these emotions, however, there is a clear sense among us all that as Virginians we cannot tolerate such acts of violence.
Our institutions of higher learning are intended to be sanctuaries of education and self-improvement-not places of violence. Law abiding Virginians may rest assured that law enforcement authorities will identify whoever is responsible and our court system will see that justice is done.”
On July 14, 2004, after nearly a year and a half of waiting for Officer Lambert to answer our questions on the threatening email, I decided to take the Attorney General up on his words. I wrote Attorney General Kilgore asking for his assistance.
In response to my letter, James O. Towey, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Virginia, responded on August 14, 2004:
“Dear Mr. Cariens,
This office is in receipt of your letter with regard to the questions you have concerning the State Police investigation of (a) threatening email received by Angela Dales, the mother of your granddaughter. I am very sorry to hear that Angela’s life was subsequently taken at the Appalachian School of Law.
I understand from your letter that you have been informed by the investigating officer that the author of the email is not known but there is no link between the email and the shooting. Please understand that the authority and jurisdiction of this Office are limited by statute. The Attorney General’s Office functions primarily as a law firm for state government. In this capacity, it advises state officials and represents the various state agencies and departments.
Because this Office is not typically charged with the oversight of the investigatory functions of police and local prosecutors, it has no knowledge of the investigation of which you inquire. The proper functioning of our criminal justice system, however, necessitates that criminal investigations be kept confidential. This need is recognized in Virginia Freedom of Information Act (“VFOIA”), which excludes from its provisions, subject to the discretion of the custodian, “complaints, memoranda, correspondence and evidence relating to a criminal investigation or prosecution, other than criminal incident information.
Criminal incident information” consists of “a general description of the criminal activity reported, the date and general location the alleged crime was committed, the identity of the investigating officer, and a general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen.” Please note that, under certain circumstances, even “criminal incident information” may be withheld under the VFOIA. Information on obtaining records from the State Police under the VFOIA is contained on their web site at www.vsp.state.va.us.
If you are dissatisfied with the manner in which the investigation was handled, or by the fact that the investigating officer did not follow up on his promise to answer your questions, you may file a complaint at any State Police Office or by calling the Internal Affairs Section at telephone number (804) 323-2383. Information on filing complaints can also be obtained at www.vsp.state.va.us/professionalstandards.htm.
Please understand this Office is prohibited from providing legal advice to private citizens and, consequently, nothing herein may be construed as such. You are of course, free to consult with any attorney engaged in private practice of law. I hope you will find this information helpful in obtaining answers to your questions. Thank you for expressing your concerns.
James O. Towey
Assistant Attorney General”
The response from the Attorney General’s office, albeit polite, contains prime examples of the “double talk” that victims and their families encounter in Virginia. First, Mr. Towey completely ignores the illogical aspect of the police saying they don’t know who wrote the e-mail, but there is no connection to the law school murders. Second, Mr. Towey wrote that his office “is not typically charged with the oversight of investigatory functions of local police and local prosecutors, it has no knowledge of the investigation of which you inquire.” The word “typical” tells me that the state’s Attorney General’s office does have the statutory powers to review local investigations. In fact, I cannot find anything in the statutes governing the functioning of the Attorney General’s office that prohibits him from investigating the circumstances and investigations surrounding the e-mail. Furthermore, the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law were not typical. The shootings were the worst to occur on school grounds in the state’s history up to that time. If there are indications of incompetence in either the investigation surrounding the crime or in prosecuting the case against the killer, are we to believe that it is “typical” for the state’s Attorney General to turn a blind eye to a miscarriage of justice?
Kilgore Turns His Back on Investigation
A month after the shooting, then-Attorney General Kilgore joined other elected officials in visiting the campus to express condolences. He is quoted as saying “there is not greater memorial to (the murder victim) than the continued growth and success of this law school.” Actually, there would be no greater memorial to them, and to Angela Dales specifically, than find out all the facts and truth surrounding the tragedy.
The bottom-line is that based on the information we have to date, Attorney General Kilgore’s office did turn its back on delving further into the shooting. Apparently, Mr. Kilgore and his staff believe that you can ignore evidence that may be part of a criminal investigation; they apparently believe the evidence will go away, it will be forgotten—they must have believed that we would go away. We will not go away.
Mr. Towey wrote, “The Attorney General’s office functions as a law firm for state government. In this capacity, it advises state officials (I assume the state highway patrol falls in this category) and represents the various state agencies and departments.” Isn’t it logical to believe that when confronted with evidence or information of questionable police investigations, sloppiness that may have contributed to a school shooting, that the Attorney General’s office would “advise” the state police to review the investigation of the case? (To be continued)