The special grand jury impaneled by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate Loudoun County Public Schools is not the first time county residents have been summoned by the circuit court to determine whether criminal indictments are warranted.
Former County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio — a conservative Republican from the Sterling District, who was the subject of a 2013 special grand jury investigation — tells WTOP he believes the current panel will uncover criminal wrongdoing.
In April of this year, the school system said a special grand jury had been convened to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults last year.
Under an executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Miyares was authorized to conduct a “full investigation” into the school system following two sexual assaults carried out by the same student at two different high schools.
”Based on my 16 years on the Board of Supervisors, my own experience, there will be a discovery of some type of crime, whether it’s federal, state, or local,” said Delgaudio.
“The special grand jury today is dealing with hard evidence, concrete evidence of cover-ups,” said Delgaudio. “As they said in Watergate, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”
While obstruction of justice, and destroying evidence could warrant criminal charges, claims of “cover-up” carry only political and public relations consequences.
As WTOP has reported, School Superintendent Scott Ziegler sent a brief, confidential email to school board members on May 28, 2021 — the same day a female student at Stone Bridge High School said she was sexually assaulted in a bathroom.
Since special grand jury proceedings preclude prosecutors from discussing potential evidence, details about the scope of the ongoing panel’s investigation have largely come from those who have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, or to provide documents.
A now-15-year-old was arrested in May 2021, in connection with a sexual assault at Stone Bridge High School, and was then transferred to Broad Run High School, where he assaulted another girl months later.
During their campaigns, Youngkin and Miyares alleged Loudoun County Public Schools had covered up its handling of the sex assaults.
In his executive order, Youngkin wrote: “A decision was made to transfer the assailant to another Loudoun County high school, where the student was able to commit a second sexual assault. The Loudoun County School Board and school administrators withheld key details and knowingly lied to parents about the assaults.”
Miyares’ office has declined requests to provide evidence of the latter allegation, citing the investigation.
Loudoun County’s 2013 special grand jury investigation
Back in 2013, the special grand jury process was used to investigate allegations that Delgaudio created a hostile workplace environment in his county office to benefit his political campaign, and his conservative nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States.
However, no charges were filed against Delgaudio. Theo Stamos, then the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, who headed the special grand jury investigation, did not ask the panel to issue an indictment.
However, the judge granted permission to publicly issue a report containing its findings, as well as rationale for not filing criminal charges.
The special grand jury’s 19-page report included observations of “several instances that appeared to present a conflict of interest among Delgaudio’s (Board of Supervisors) staff activities, Public Advocate and his campaign that created the potential for perceived malfeasance and unintentionally crossover between county business and the supervisor’s private activities.”
Delgaudio told WTOP he was not alerted that the special grand jury would not indict him, before he read the special grand jury’s report in The Washington Post.
”It was absurd to publish allegations like that, which had no foundation. Yes, I yell at people. If I’m breathing, I’m talking, and sometimes that might be too loud for some people, so, yeah, that’s abusive,” he said, sarcastically.
In June 2014, a recall effort by county Democrats failed, when a judge dismissed the petition. In 2015, Delgaudio was defeated by Koran Saines, who was reelected in 2019.
Delgaudio special grand jury recommended changes
Stamos, who lost her bid for reelection in 2019, is now the lead investigator in the Miyares special grand jury investigation into Loudoun County’s school system.
In 2013, in explaining its rationale for not charging Delgaudio, the special grand jury wrote Stamos had alerted them that the law at the time limited “misuse of public assets” charges to full-time employees. In 2013, county supervisor positions in Loudoun County were considered part-time employment.
The 2013 special grand jurors wrote: “We believe that amending this statute is the best course of action, especially in the view that no state or local employee or agent should misuse public resources.”
Shortly after the special grand jury report was published, Loudoun County delegates in Richmond successfully worked to change the state statute.
Given the climate in Delgaudio’s office, in which county employees were also being used in nonofficial capacities, the special grand jury also recommended that nonpolitical county staff serve as a third-party review of outside employment or political activities for Board of Supervisors aides.
Challenge to current special grand jury
As WTOP first reported, the Loudoun County School Board is suing to stop the special grand jury from further investigation, claiming the panel is being used in an “unconstitutional” manner.
In its civil lawsuit against Miyares and the state, the school board is seeking a temporary injunction, claiming that the executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on his first day in office went beyond his legal power, and that the special grand jury is being used unlawfully.
In the school board’s filing, Attorney Steven T. Webster called the Miyares grand jury “unconstitutional” in that “local school boards are vested with the exclusive power over ‘the supervision of schools in each school division.’”
According to the suit, only local commonwealth’s attorneys are allowed to impanel a special grand jury — not the attorney general.
In addition, the suit claims Youngkin and Miyares are not investigating criminal matters, but attempting to shape school policy, in the continuing culture wars scrutiny of Loudoun County’s school board.
The complaint alleges that the special grand jury has sought records and testimony from county school employees and students, many with no connection to any aspects of the two sex assaults by the same high school student.
”Through EO4, the Governor has attempted to arrogate to the Attorney General the power to oversee decisions or public schools regarding any subject matter that the Attorney General deems fit to supervise, and the Attorney General has attempted to exercise that ‘oversight’ through the powers of the Special Grand Jury,” according to Webster, in the complaint.
In addition, the suit seeks to stop the special grand jury from attempting to elicit information about noncriminal matters from witnesses protected by the school board’s attorney-client privilege.
Delgaudio said the school board should allow the special grand jury process to play out: ”Their present, desperate ploy to dissolve the special grand jury or restrain the grand jury is clear weakness, and a stupid, absurd legal strategy, that in lay terms, I’ve never seen.”
Webster, the school board’s attorney, declined to comment.
Privacy and politicization
Circuit Court Judge James Plowman is overseeing the current grand jury. In 2013, Plowman was the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney — a Republican, who turned the Delgaudio investigative reigns over to Stamos, a Democrat.
According to the Handbook for Virginia Grand Jurors: “At the end of its deliberation the Special Grand Jury must prepare a written Report of its findings, including any recommendations it may deem appropriate.”
Back in 2019, the Virginia General Assembly selected Plowman to become a judge in the Circuit Court of 20th Judicial District — which includes Loudoun, Fauquier, and Rappahannock counties.
If the current special grand jury, at the behest of Stamos and Miyares asks, Plowman would determine whether the special grand jury report could be made public.
Contacted by WTOP, Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said she can’t legally comment or speak about a special grand jury.
If the current special grand jury’s report is ultimately released to the public — without criminal charges — Delgaudio expects it would be used by both sides as political fodder, perpetuating the Loudoun County culture wars.
”I could have done a bunch of stuff regarding the lies and the allegations, in terms of legal proceedings — I didn’t opt for any of that,” said Delgaudio. “I’m aware that this is a political game — I’m aware that there’s no limit to what could be said about somebody, when you’re running for office.”