Wiseley, Logan focus on their records at forum

MOUNT JACKSON – Republican Chad Logan and Independent Amanda McDonald Wiseley took their campaigns for Shenandoah County commonwealth’s attorney before a group of conservative activists Saturday.Their joint appearance illuminated more similarities than differences between them. Both spent most of their time discussing their records as prosecutors. There was no direct criticism of each other.

Wiseley, the incumbent, was elected commonwealth’s attorney in 2011. Logan has been an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Rockingham County for about the same period.

Wiseley talked abut trends and prominent cases in her office, including two death penalty cases, one of which ended with the defendant, Nicole Miller, pleading guilty to second-degree murder and being sentenced to 50 years in prison. The death penalty cases of Miller and Claude Shafer involved slayings that happened within nine days of each other.

“So obviously things have been somewhat crazy and unexpected,” Wiseley said.

Logan said his initial work involved firearms offenses, which immersed him in the midst of some of the some serious crimes in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg. His more recent prosecutions have involved drugs and crimes against children.

Wiseley said she has also stressed prosecution of crimes against children. Since becoming prosecutor, she said, she has worked to coordinate the work of her office with law enforcement and the department of social services, which often initiates investigations into child abuse.

“When I started, the relationship with law enforcement and my office and the department of social services was not what I would call a good relationship,” Wiseley said. “We often times would work against each other.”

Since then, Wiseley said, her office has formed a multi-disciplinary team with law enforcement officials, the department of social services, forensic nurses and the Child Advocacy Center in Winchester to get victims support from the courts and into therapy.

“That was unheard of — we probably couldn’t even have tried it five years ago,” Wiseley said.

Logan said after 2 ½ years on the job, he asked to be assigned to a team of prosecutors specializing in crimes against children.

“This is a very serious, very emotionally difficult area of the law to practice in, an area of law I felt I could give a lot to with my time and dedication,” Logan said.

In one child abuse case, Logan said he retried it with the agreement of the victim, a 13 or 14-year-old girl. The first trial had ended in a hung jury but the second produced a guilty verdict, which Logan called “my proudest accomplishment, vindication for Katie.”

Both candidates touted their productivity.

Wiseley said grand juries in Shenandoah County handed up 505 indictments the year before she took an office. The number rose to 808 during her first year and reached 1,100 to 1,300 in subsequent years with no increase in staff.

“The caseload has increased for all of us,” Wiseley said of the attorneys in her office. “We have not increased funding.”

Logan said he has tried more cases before juries and judges than any other prosecutor in the Rockingham County office during each of his years there. He has impaneled 13 juries.

“I do not shy away from trial,” Logan said. “I take cases that are appropriate.  I have a great conviction rate. At juries, I’ve lost only once. My conviction rate is over 90 percent.”

Wiseley said bath salts were the biggest drug problem in Shenandoah County when she took office. Heroin then became the main drug worry, but now methamphetamine cases are surging.

Wiseley said she is working with the Sheriff’s Office to launch a community education initiative for methamphetamine similar to the one two years ago that focused on the dangers of heroin.

Wiseley said she was especially interested in educating retail store employees on the ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Meth users can easily walk into stores and purchase items used to make the drug without arousing any suspicions among employees, Wiseley said.

“They buy Coleman fuel and lithium batteries together, so that should trigger to the store that something might be a little off,” Wiseley said. “We’re  trying to establish and have  educational meetings with the community and with the businesses and have a way for them to communicate with us when they’re seeing the same people coming week in and week out buying Coleman fuel and lithium batteries.”

Logan said social media and contacts in the community can be important tools in limiting drug and gang-related crimes.

“We’re not going to be able to prevent every drug deal,” Logan said. “We’re not going to be able to prevent every violent crime. We’re not going to be able to necessarily eliminate all inclinations to participate in gang activity. What we can do is know the players and find out where they’re hanging out, find out where they’re dealing their drugs, find out where they’re committing their crimes, increase court presence and prosecute them vigorously once they’ve been identified and charged.”

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