Week in Alexandria

Week in Alexandria

Rape charge dropped.

— Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter won't say why he asked General District Court Judge Donald Haddock to drop the charge of rape against former Alexandria Deputy Sheriff Bryant Duane Pegues, who was fired from his job after evidence emerged that he had sex with an inmate at the city jail last month. When asked about why he asked the judge to drop the case, Porter would not say if the woman changed her story or if forensic evidence did not prove the prosecution's case.

"I won't comment on a pending case," said Porter.

Although Pegues will not be charged with rape, he is still charged with having sex with an inmate, which is a felony. After the Haddock dropped the rape charge, Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhonre issued a statement to reassure the public that Pegues was fired because he had sex with an inmate and that he would not be rehired because the rape charge had been dropped.

"The fact remains that he betrayed his duty to this office and violated the public trust," said Lawhorne. "The dropping of the rape charge does not change his termination from this office.”

Pegues is not the first sheriff's deputy to face these kinds of charges at the city jail. In 2003, sheriff's deputy Eric Mayo was charged with having sex with two inmates who were under his supervision in a work-release program at the Alexandria jail. Now Lawhorne says he's moving forward with a review of his office's policies, practices, training and procedures.

"This review will be conducted by highly experienced command staff from the Arlington Sheriff’s Office and will begin after the criminal case has been adjudicated," said Lawhorne.

Takeover Unconstitutional

Late last year, members of the Alexandria City Council and School Board convened in a closed-door executive session to consider joining a lawsuit against the Opportunity Educational Institution, a statewide school division created by former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell to take over troubled schools. Jefferson-Houston is the only school in Northern Virginia where test scores have been so low for so long that it qualifies for a takeover under the law, which was passed by the General Assembly last year. So the city seemed poised to join an existing lawsuit that was then being organized by jurisdictions targeted by the takeover.

In the end, city officials decided against joining the lawsuit. If they had moved in the other direction, though, they would have been on the winning side this week.

On Tuesday, Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles Poston ruled that the law creating the Opportunity Educational Institution is unconstitutional. The state-run institution was slated to take control of six schools, although its future is now uncertain. The organization received only $150,000 of funding, about a quarter of what McDonnell requested. And many are questioning whether or not the statewide school division has the organizational infrastructure to accomplish the task of administering failing schools. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he is evaluating the state's next steps on the issue.

"We absolutely have to do better by the children in these schools," said McAuliffe. "Part of our effort will include continuing the bipartisan effort to reform our existing Standards of Learning system to better serve all of our students."

As far as Alexandria declining to join the lawsuit, some say that was the best course of action despite the victory in court this week.

"It allowed the School Board to focus on finding a new superintendent," said Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45). "And our side won anyway."

Thanking Moran

Honesty is always the best policy, even for politicians.

As he was delivering his victory speech Tuesday night after securing the Democratic nomination to run in the seat that will be vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer took a moment to thank his predecessor.

"I want to thank you for your longtime friendship and inspiration," Beyer told Moran, "and most of all for deciding to retire from the U.S. Congress."