Whistleblower revealed that Virginia parole board freed murderers illegally. Now she has been fired.

Whistleblower revealed that Virginia parole board freed
murderers illegally. Now she has been fired. 1

RICHMOND, VA – An investigator for the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has been fired while awaiting whistleblower protection for exposing that the Virginia Parole Board had a pattern of violating state law.

OSIG senior investigator Jennifer Moschetti, was initially suspended from her job in early March, 2021, after providing General Assembly leaders with documentation showing that the parole board violated policies and state law in at least nine instances of released killers.

Adding further to the controversy, the Office of the Attorney General allegedly redacted findings in at least one instance of inappropriately handled prisoner release.

After her suspension, Moschetti filed a lawsuit March 8 against State Inspector General Michael Westfall, alleging that, after her “good faith” in reporting alleged misconduct by the Parole Board and in reporting redaction of findings by the OAG, she had been “subjected to retaliatory actions for conduct as a whistle blower which is protected under Virginia Code §2.2-3011.”

Moschetti’s suit also noted that she was subjected to “interroga[tion]” by Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff for Governor Ralph Northam, Brian Moran, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, State Inspector General Westfall, and others.

However, before a hearing on the lawsuit was held, Moschetti was fired from her job on March 22.

Moschetti’s work identified a striking “pattern of violations” by the Virginia Parole Board last year.

According to The News & Advance, the initial red flag was raised during the scrutiny of the case of a convicted cop-killer who was released on parole.

Moshcetti and the OSIG began their investigation after Vincent Lamont Martin was paroled in April, 2020.

Martin was convicted of killing Officer Michael P. Connors in 1979, when he shot Officer Connors in the neck during a traffic stop. Martin then proceeded to fire 4 additional shots point blank into the officer’s head when he was down.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but a new trial was granted on a technicality, and he was then sentenced to life in prison instead.

Martin had been previously denied parole due to a history of violence and crimes committed while in prison, but on April 10, 2020, one year after his last denial, the Virginia Board voted by supermajority to grant him parole.

The OSIG investigation that Moschetti initiated into the parole board’s actions was not focused on Martin’s crime and behavior, but rather the manner in which his release was conducted.

Virginia law stipulates that prosecutors and victims, or family members of victims, are supposed to be notified of release.  This procedure was evidently not followed by the Virginia Parole Board in the case of Martin.

Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson noted:

“It appears that neither the rules nor the law were followed.”

According to the AP, the decision to parole Martin “sparked an uproar in the law enforcement community.”

Officer Connors’ family and Richmond’s prosecutor requested that the Parole Board reverse its decision, to no avail.

Connors’ sister, Maureen Clements, who lives in New York, told the AP:

“I find the political corruption in Virginia rampant and devastating. 

“I suspect because my family is not in that state they feel no responsibility or sense of decency to keep us informed.”

Further investigation reportedly revealed that the Parole Board violated law and procedure in the release of at least eight additional convicted killers.

Such cases included:

– Dwayne Markee Reid, who was sentenced in 1995 for killing Thomas Runyon in Suffolk “for ‘fun.’”  Reid had previously been denied parole due to criminal behavior while under supervision, but he was granted parole on March 28, 2020.

  Tyson Xavier Golden, who was given three life sentences plus 118 years for three violent home invasions, one of which resulted in the beating death of an elderly man.  Previously denied parole due to his felonious actions and “institutional infractions while incarcerated,” Golden was released April 3, 2020.

  Debra Kaye Scribner, who was sentenced in 2012 to 23 years and six months for slaying her son-in-law, Eric Wynn, with a firearm.  She had been previously denied parole due to the “serious nature of the offenses,” but was released by the parole board April 1, 2020.

  Irvian Cotton, who was sentenced to life plus two years in prison for murdering his wife in front of their two children in 1986.  He was previously denied parole due to “violence, substance abuse, the serious nature of his crimes and being risk to the community,” but he was released April 17, 2020, just a few months after his most recent parole denial.

  Robert Dwayne Godfrey, who was sentenced to 200 years in prison for first-degree murder and felony use of a firearm in a robbery.  Additional years were added to his sentence for a felony escape.  He was denied parole ten times due to his history of violence and criminal behavior while in prison, but then was released by the parole board on August 31, 2020.

All these parole releases have in common the same concerns that the release of Martin raised:  In violation of Virginia law and policy, the prosecutor was not informed of the release, and the parole board did not “endeavor diligently” to contact the victims’ family members before release.

Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney Phil Ferguson, who prosecuted cases against three of the released convicted killers, remarked on the releases:

“The crimes were committed by people that maybe should have spent the rest of their life in prison.”

He added that the way the releases were carried out was “done in a way that was designed to get ‘em out.”

Ferguson went on to say:

 “In a lot of these cases, these people had been denied parole in a matter of months before [they subsequently were released on parole]. 

“And I can tell you that in at least some of these cases, the victims’ families were just totally devastated.”

Findings in response to complaints of Parole Board misconduct were kept quiet until recently from the public, the General Assembly, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Ferguson, who filed three complaints himself.

Former Parole Board Chair Adrianne Bennett has come under the most scrutiny, since she was at the helm during most of the controversial releases, before leaving April 16, 2020, to take a position as a judge in Virginia Beach.

Bennett’s attorney, Jeffrey Breit, did not agree that laws or protocol were violated.  He told The News & Advance:

“I think that you will find that there are lots of facts being twisted and I think you will find that the agenda which has heretofore caused more political stories than facts need to have an investigation and we look forward to it.” 

Breit added:

“And I think that when the dust settles you will find that the process followed by the parole board in their discretionary decision-making was followed to the letter of the law.”

Breit also noted that Bennett is declining to comment, pending an outside investigation.

Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s office has echoed Breit’s sentiments, backing the parole board’s work and claiming that the whistleblower reports are “politically motivated.”

Investigator Jennifer Moschetti’s attorney, Tim Anderson, told Virginia Mercury that her recent firing has now rendered her whistleblower lawsuit “moot,” but further legal action may take place.

Anderson stated in an email:

“Ms. Moschetti will begin now the process of exploring the legal remedies she now has for wrongful employment termination and intentional injuries to her reputation.”

Anderson also wrote:

“As of today, the only government employee receiving any consequences in the parole board investigation is now the investigator herself.” 

“This is a very dark day in Virginia and no stone will be left unturned as Ms. Moschetti avails herself of every remedy available at law.”

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