“Progressive” Prosecutors Actually Help Crime Victims……
…..except when they don’t. One particularly dreadful case of a “progressive” prosecutor, Steven Descano, betraying a crime victim is the one set out below, in which Descano agreed to a sweetheart deal with a fellow who, over several years when the victim was in grade school, sodomized her again and again.
The Washington Post, not exactly a friend of stern law enforcement, has the story. The perversion of justice in this case is so bad that the girl’s family has retained an attorney to fight the plea deal before the sentencing judge. (Full disclosure: I’m a resident of Descano’s district, Fairfax County, Virginia, and contributed to the campaign of his election opponent, former AUSA Jonathan Fahey).
Here are the sorry details.
The family of a girl who authorities say suffered years of sexual abuse by a relative is taking the unusual step of mounting a legal fight against a Virginia prosecutor to try to win a stiffer sentence for the defendant.
The family, which has retained an attorney, hopes to persuade a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge to reject a plea deal at a sentencing hearing for Oscar Zaldivar, 53, on Friday. The plea deal caps Zaldivar’s sentence at a maximum of a little more than 17 years.
But the girl’s parents said in an interview that Zaldivar, who has already entered a guilty plea, deserves decades more in prison.
Prosecutors have said in court that Zaldivar molested the girl over a period of seven years, including a years-long stretch when the abuse occurred at least once a week while the girl was in grade school.
Bad enough right now. It goes downhill.
The girl’s parents said they think the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve T. Descano has ignored their wishes and has not offered an explanation of the rationale used to arrive at the proposed sentence. They have filed a motion objecting to the plea deal.
“They put more importance on the defendants than on the victims,” the girl’s father said of Descano’s office. “They leave the victims on the side. That’s the way we feel”……
Descano’s spokesman, Ben Shnider, said in a statement that the crimes in this case are “horrific and a priority for our office” and that the proposed sentence was tougher than most handed out for similar offenses in Virginia.
“We value and respect the perspective of the family and we were in touch with them throughout the plea negotiations so that we could take that perspective into account,” Shnider said.
Is that an explanation? No, it’s a bunch of off-the-word-processor mush designed to evade an explanation rather than give one.
Descano is one of a wave of liberal prosecutors who have won election in recent years across the nation, promising to take a less punitive approach and to undo historical inequities in the justice system.
Inequities like devil-may-care treatment given to powerless and voiceless people like children who’ve spent years being raped………..oh………..wait………..that’s NOT the people we mean. We mean the Preferred Bellowing Group Du Jour, as brought to us by BLM, FAMM, the ACLU, etc, and others who have clout in the right political circles.
A Fairfax County grand jury indicted Zaldivar in 2019 on three counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of sodomy in connection with the abuse of the girl who is a relative. He was indicted on abduction with intent to defile and one count of sexual battery in the case of the girl who is not a relative.
Under Virginia law, the sodomy counts alone carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, since the acts involved an adult and a child under 13. The other counts carry maximum sentences that add up to more than 80 years.
The same Virginia legislature that repealed the death penalty has, tellingly, not disturbed any of the penalties applicable here.
The parents said they met in April with assistant prosecutor Nathan D. Freier, who told them Descano’s office had worked out a proposed plea deal with Zaldivar that called for a maximum sentence of 19 years. That was ultimately reduced to 17 years and two months.
Paul Mickelsen, an attorney for the parents who attended the meeting, said Freier asked them how they felt about the deal and the family told the prosecutor it was a miscarriage of justice.
Miscarriage of justice about captures it for a proposed sentence that would be a fraction of what the legislature thinks such a grotesque crime is worth.
Mickelsen said Freier indicated he wasn’t satisfied with the proposed plea deal but feared challenging it because he might lose his job.
Translation: The line attorney from the prosecutor’s office also thinks the deal stinks and is going along with it because he’s been threatened. This is a great way to run an office.
Mickelsen said he also asked Freier about the reasoning behind the deal and that Freier said “no reasoning has been given” from his superiors. Family members said they were dismayed and hurt that they couldn’t get that basic information.
Hey, wait, didn’t “progressive” prosecutors like Descano campaign on a platform of openness and transparency?
The prosecutor said the victim told investigators that Zaldivar would lock her in a room to abuse her with other family members in the house. The girl told investigators Zaldivar told her to keep the molestation a secret from her parents and others.
So the defendant used intimidation and outright force. This was against a six year-old.
Freier graphically described one encounter, where the girl resisted and screamed for help. He said Zaldivar admitted to molesting both girls when he was interviewed by police. The girl’s family said she was ready to testify against Zaldivar at a trial.
Despite her treatment, the victim, even at such a young age, is willing to face her tormentor in court and testify against him. This was how Descano’s office rewarded her courage:
Shnider said in his statement that Descano’s office willingly struck the mandatory life sentence language on the sodomy charges because the office has a policy of avoiding mandatory minimums whenever possible. Shnider said mandatory sentences play a “pernicious role” in the justice system and don’t allow stakeholders to make individualized case determinations.
Translation: The legislature can go to hell, along with the rape victim. A mandatory minimum for a crime like this remains state law, but the Fairfax County prosecutor can de facto repeal it at his whim for reasons not connected to the case — indeed, reasons that take no account of the case whatever — but take root solely in his prefab, Amerika-is-too-tuff ideology.
Shnider pointed to a similar case this month in Nelson County, Va., in which a jury gave the defendant a 17-year sentence.
But the parents of the victim argue that Zaldivar’s case is especially terrible. They point to the nature of the abuse, its frequency and that it continued over years.
The parents said the crimes have devastated their family. Their daughter has suffered depression.
“Progressive prosecutor” types tell us they embody a more modern, compassionate approach. I invite any fair-minded reader to judge for himself what kind of “compassion” is going on in this case.
The Fairfax County public defenders representing Zaldivar argued in a motion responding to the family’s filing that the parents have no legal authority to object to the plea agreement under Virginia law, a position that is shared by Descano’s office.
Lan’ sakes alive! The rapist’s attorneys and the “prosecutor” are singing the same song!! Now there are those of us — admittedly an old-fashioned cohort — who think justice is better served by the much-fabled adversarial system, in which the parties present both sides. When the prosecutor is merely the third arm of the defense, that doesn’t happen.
At the sentencing hearing Friday, Circuit Court Judge Thomas P. Mann could choose to accept the plea deal with the 17-year sentence, lower the penalty or reject the plea deal altogether. If the last happened, Zaldivar could withdraw his guilty pleas and the case would continue.
The girl’s parents said they and their daughter want to testify at Friday’s hearing to make their feelings known about the proposed sentence. It’s unclear whether Freier will call them to take the stand.
“Sometimes I think if this happened to a close friend I’d think twice about advising them to get involved in this process,” the mother of the girl said in Spanish through an interpreter. “It hurts more to see that justice is not done.”
How often have we heard that the “progressive” prosecutor’s approach will encourage more victims to come forward, on the theory that the system is now geared toward “family-centered treatment” and “harm reduction,” whatever that means. Only now we see that this is one big, fat lie.