By Katabella Roberts
A liberal prosecutor in Loudoun County, Virginia, has been removed and disqualified from a serial burglary case by a judge for allegedly “deliberately misleading the court and the public.”
Buta Biberaj, the county prosecutor for the office of the Commonwealth’s State Attorney, was taken off the case this week by Loudon County Circuit Court Judge James Plowman, according to local reports.
The case involved suspect Kevin Valle, who was charged with two felony burglary charges and three misdemeanor charges for crimes committed in May 2021. Those charges could have seen Valle facing a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Instead, Valle received a 6-month plea deal from Biberaj’s office and was ordered to pay restitution to the businesses that he had burgled, despite holding a lengthy criminal history.
The plea agreement from the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office at the time stated: “The accused has no prior adult convictions on his record and has not been convicted of a felony,” Loudoun Now reports.
“The co-conspirator is older and has a significant criminal history leading the Commonwealth to believe that this accused was being negatively influenced and that he was not the primary actor in these crimes. Each of these crimes as charged occurred within hours of each other and not over the course of days or even weeks. The accused is taking responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor offenses,” it continues.
However, Judge Plowman noted in his filing issued this week that the Commonwealth had failed to mention that the two burglaries the defendant is charged with are part of an alleged 10-day crime spree, which may have included another ten burglaries over four counties.
Plowman also noted that the Commonwealth “sanitizes the facts” with its assessment of Valle’s past adult criminal record which stated that the accused “has no prior adult convictions … and has not been convicted of a felony” despite Valle having just days earlier pled guilty to three felonies and having pending criminal charges and a juvenile record.
The judge said the representation made by the Commonwealth was an “overt misrepresentation by omission” and described the filings as “misleading representations and entirely inaccurate.”
The actions “reflect an inability of the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to properly prosecute this case with the detail and attention required of a criminal prosecutor and consistent with the professional standards and obligations of a prosecutor,” Plowman wrote.
Plowman then ordered Biberaj be removed and disqualified from further prosecution on the matter.
Virginians for Safe Communities, a non-profit organization that aims to inform Virginians on public safety and justice issues, also filed a complaint with the Virginia State Bar on Thursday against Biberaj.
That complaint requested a “formal investigation and appropriate sanctions, which could include disbarment—preventing her from practicing law.”
“Ms. Biberaj’s conduct is completely unbecoming of both a prosecutor and an officer of the Court. Judge Plowman’s order is a damning indictment of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s ethics and her low regard for the integrity of the justice system. We hope that the Virginia Bar recognizes the severity of this misconduct and Buta Biberaj is disbarred and removed from office immediately,” Sean Kennedy, the president of Virginians for Safe Communities, said Thursday.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is now set to take over the case.
He said of Plowman’s ruling that it is, “clear from the Order that the Court has rightfully lost confidence in Ms. Biberaj, her deputies and her office’s ability and willingness to effectively seek justice in this matter” while calling it an “unprecedented development.”
Biberaj fired back at Miyares in a press conference Tuesday afternoon in which she warned the judge to “Stay in your lane.”
“Your lane is in Richmond. Your lane is being the attorney general of Virginia,” Biberaj said. “You are not the elected council attorney and definitely nor for Loudon County,” she said. “Since his election, he’s been wanting to undermine the good work that we do as progressive prosecutors.”
Biberaj also claimed that judge Plowman lacked the statutory authority to remove her office from the case.
Miyares took to Twitter shortly after the press conference to issue a rebuttal: “Our lane is to protect Virginians. The criminal first, victim last prosecutors take us on a detour to higher crime.”
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