Defense attorney Ed Nuttall seeks to unseat Fairfax Co. prosecutor Descano

Defense attorney Ed Nuttall, who has represented more than 20 officers in police-involved shootings, has launched a Democratic primary campaign to replace Steve Descano, who was elected Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2019 on a platform of social justice reform.

Nuttall tells WTOP that Descano “has been unable to affect those reforms — in fact he’s gone backwards, and he hasn’t even delivered on the basic services of the office.”

Nuttall was an assistant prosecutor in Fairfax County from 1999 through 2002, under Robert Horan, who never charged a police officer with a crime for any on-duty shootings.

As a defense attorney, Nuttall has represented more than 20 officers in police shootings. He defended Tyler Timberlake, who was acquitted in 2022 on charges of using excessive force on Lamonta Gladney, a Black man, using a stun gun several times and using his knees to pin him to the ground.

“I’ve seen law enforcement in action through every conceivable angle, and I will tell you that we need to hold police accountable for their actions,” said Nuttall. “In my office, if a police officer commits a crime, whether on-duty or off-duty, that officer will be prosecuted.”

In December 2020, Descano said his office would stop seeking cash bail, claiming it creates a two-tiered system of justice.

“Cash bail is a red herring,” said Nuttall. “The issue is whether an individual, an offender, is a danger to himself or others, or a danger to the community, and that’s what we’ll make our decisions on, regarding whether to hold someone pending trial, or whether to release them.”

“We need to protect victims of violent crime — we need to hold people accountable,” said Nuttall. “We need to assist people who are caught up in the justice system, who may have intellectual disabilities, mental illness, or addiction — we need to take a hard look at those cases, and factor those into account, as well.”

Nuttall, who is white, was asked if he’d like to reassure community members that charges filed by his office would be based solely on the person’s actions, not race, age or gender.

“We live in a time where people like me have historically gotten the benefit of the doubt, and that’s wrong,” said Nuttall. “We need to take into account that there are systemic problems with racial injustice in our society — in Fairfax County, in Virginia, in America, and that has to stop. And the Commonwealth Attorney has a key role in racial and social justice.”

Last month, Descano announced he would seek re-election.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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