Candidates debate rates of convictions

WOODSTOCK – The candidates for Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney debated conviction rates and plea agreements at a candidates’ forum attended by more than 130 people Thursday night.

As was the case in their first forum Saturday in Mount Jackson, Republican Chad Logan and incumbent Independent Amanda McDonald Wiseley did not directly criticize each other, but Logan drew a pointed comparison between his conviction rate as an assistant prosecutor in Rockingham County and Wiseley’s office.

Both candidates delivered their remarks in reply to written questions submitted by audience members.

Wiseley said she did not put much stock in conviction rates and said her office did not keep track of them.

“I do not think justice is measured in numbers,” Wiseley said.

Shev said the limitations of conviction rates could be seen in a child molestation case scheduled for sentencing today in circuit court. Wiseley said her office had dropped all but two of a lengthy list of original counts against the defendant, Robert Lee Good. But, Wiseley said, Good still faces the possibility of life imprisonment on his guilty pleas to rape and taking indecent liberties with a child.

Wiseley said a therapist for the victim, an 8 year old at the time of the crime, couldn’t testify at a public trial.

Speaking of the victim, Wiseley said she wanted to “make sure he’s not hurt,” by the experience of testifying against Good.

Logan said he agreed with Wiseley that some cases are not suitable for trial.

“Plea bargains will always be a part of the job for a commonwealth’s attorney,” Logan said.

But Logan said he found it “interesting” that Wiseley did not have statistics on her office’s conviction rate because he had assembled some of the same data.

Logan said the conviction rate for indicted felonies in the Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office for 2013 and 2014 hovered around 40 percent, with the remaining 60 percent dropped or ending in some other manner that fell short of a conviction.

Logan said the outcome of his own caseload of completed felonies in Rockingham County during 2013 and 2014 showed a much higher conviction rate of 77 percent. Another 19 percent of his felonies during the same period were dropped as part of a plea agreement, Logan said.

In reply to another audience question about how they prosecute marijuana cases, Wiseley and Logan both said they treat marijuana smoking the same as any other offense.

Logan said marijuana cases are common in Rockingham County, the home to big student populations at James Madison University and Bridgewater College.

“We’re very familiar with how those cases go,” Logan said.

Wiseley said laws against smoking or selling marijuana are no different than any other laws passed by the General Assembly.

“Until the legislature does something to amend that, we do prosecute that here,” Wiseley said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com