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Inmate files motion to toss out judgment

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Washington says he is being detained illegally on murder, gun convictions

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The judge who sentenced a city man to 70 years for a 1994 murder won't hear his request to toss out the conviction.

Jeffrey F. Washington filed a motion in Winchester Circuit Court on May 17 to vacate the judgment entered by Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. in his convictions in the shooting death of Carlos D. Marshall. Wetsel sentenced Washington to 70 years in prison in 1995 for first-degree murder and a related gun charge.

A plea agreement reached between the commonwealth and Washington's attorneys, N. Randolph Bryant and John R. Prosser, came in the middle of his jury trial, after prosecutor Paul H. Thomson threatened to seek the death penalty in the case.

"The petitioner ... is being detained illegally in the Department of Corrections in the Commonwealth of Virginia by means of contract and judgment that was procured by extrinsic and/or collateral fraud," Washington's motion states. "Contract by such fraud is 'VOID,' therefore his present conviction and sentence is a nullity and contract is void ab initio [to be treated as invalid from the outset]."

However, in an order dated Friday, Wetsel states he "is of the opinion that it would be improper for him to preside in this case because there is a suit filed by the plaintiff in this case currently pending against himself and other law enforcement and court personnel."

Wetsel recused himself from the case and sent the order to Judge James V. Lane, chief judge of the 26th Judicial Circuit of Virginia "for such further action as he may deem necessary with respect thereto."

The petitioner cites a federal case pending against Thomson that charges the former chief prosecutor of tampering with evidence and a witness. The petitioner accuses Thomson of similar acts while prosecuting Washington's murder case as the city's commonwealth's attorney.

"The prosecutor and its agents, then engaged in a long reign of terror, threats, and intimidation against any defense witness that was in possession of exculpatory evidence that would exonerate the petitioner in an effort that was deliberate, and done with malice, to prevent any defense witness from ever making it to trial on behalf of the petitioner, thereby working as a means to prevent the petitioner from ever being at trial by jury," the motion states.

The petitioner claims the prosecutor and its agents ordered material witnesses to the murder to not talk with defense counsel. Washington accuses Thomson of taking the defense witnesses from the witness room to his office, where he and his agents "methodically threatened, intimidated and terrorized defense witness from either taking the stand or changing [their] testimony to perjured testimony on behalf of the prosecution to avoid frivolous prosecution by the prosecutor."

Washington also accuses one of his defense attorneys of pretending to represent the client while "conniving to this defeat."

In addition to Thomson, Washington accuses then Winchester police investigator James Bailous of seeking to control the outcome of the case by preventing the defense from producing certain evidence at trial.

Washington claims the prosecutor and his agents threatened six individuals, each identified in the petition, with long-term incarceration and the possible loss of custody of their children, if the witnesses testified for the defense.

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