I carefully weighed entering the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office race in Warren County but after considering current affairs, I declined to run. Both Messrs. Bryan Layton and Jonn Bell, who are running for that position, are friends and colleagues of mine, and we have all dined and had adult beverages together. And if I am not mistaken both have been to events at my home. I respect both Messrs. Layton and Bell. But a choice must be made.
I have known Bryan since he moved to Warren County to work. He is an excellent attorney and does his job well. I have always found him to be honest, ethical, and able to fairly evaluate and value a case. He does not waste time on cases that should not have been brought, and zealously prosecutes those cases that are properly brought. He strives for justice. He is an effective and efficient prosecutor and works to protect the citizens of this county on a daily basis.
In the past several weeks, Mr. Bell called for a special grand jury to be empaneled, which was done but not because of Mr. Bell. Please let that be known. Mr. Bell and those around him who have tried to politicize this process now seek to blame Mr. Madden and thus Mr. Layton for “not doing enough,” which is absurd. I know that since December, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office had been in communication with the judge to request a special grand jury, which the press has not reported on. Such accusations are bogus and ill-informed, if not just ignorant. Those naysayers were not aware of the ongoing investigation because they are simply not privy to such information, nor should they have been. Certain court orders that are available to the public show that the commonwealth’s attorney was already working on developing a case along with the Virginia State Police. Mr. Bell and those should be familiar with § 52-8.1 and § 52-8.2 of the Code of Virginia.
The laws of this commonwealth require that when certain people or organizations are to be investigated, there is a proper mechanism for doing so. Otherwise, you may end up with political witch hunts. In this matter, when the commonwealth’s attorney realized that local law enforcement was not providing him the whole story, he realized that an outside organization, namely the Virginia State Police, needed to be brought in to investigate the matter since the former Front Royal Police Department leadership was effectively obstructing him from learning information (remember Front Royal police and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office are the investigative agencies for him to use) and since the sheriff is possibly involved, the Sheriff’s Office would be conflicted. Thus, the referral. The Commonwealth’s Attorney Office in conjunction with state police then started their own investigation. See the public search warrants that have been unsealed.
Messrs. Layton and Madden had already been addressing such matters, drafting relevant search warrants, subpoenas, affidavits in support of the search warrants and I believe they knew full well that a special grand jury would be required as early as late last summer/early fall.
But folks, timing is everything. Calling for a special grand jury before your investigation is even partially done is putting the cart before the horse, and frankly could jeopardize the entire investigation. Prudence rather than headlines is called for. And thankfully Messrs. Madden and Layton displayed prudence and patience and were not seeking headlines. This due diligence allowed the state police to conduct a significant part of its investigation to develop facts and background that can then be presented to a grand jury. That is how a case is developed.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney Office was well aware that local media coverage could and would create undue influence over a potential jury due to premature disclosure of evidence or revelations regarding people who were or are the foci of the investigation.
We should all be very thankful of the discretion exercised by Messrs. Layton and Madden in the discharge of their duties, and for not political grandstanding as Mr. Bell is displaying now in his news releases and mailings that impugn the character of two good men.