Judge rules case against ex-Loudoun Co. superintendent, spokesman can continue

The legal case against the former superintendent of the Loudoun County, Virginia, public school system and the system’s spokesman will continue after a judge denied a motion Thursday to throw out the charges.

Both Scott Ziegler, the superintendent, and Wayde Byard, the spokesman, were indicted last year by a special grand jury investigating the school system’s handling of two in-school sexual assaults by the same student in 2021.

Ziegler was fired by the school board in December.

His attorneys had argued in a motion filed earlier this month that the charges against him should be thrown, arguing that Gov. Glenn Youngkin overstepped his authority by asking Virginia Attorney Gen. Jason Miyares investigate the school system and that the case should have been handled locally by Loudoun County prosecutors.

However, Loudoun Circuit Court Judge James Fisher disagreed, calling that a “narrow reading of statutory language,” and ruling that both cases could move forward.

Ziegler was indicted on three misdemeanor counts, including one count of false publication, apparently relating to statements he made at a June 2021 school board meeting following the first assault. The other two misdemeanor counts do not relate to the sexual assaults, but to an allegation that he penalized an employee who testified before the grand jury.

School spokesman Byard was indicted on one count of felony perjury. He has been on leave since mid-December.

Prosecutors with the attorney general’s office told the judge that Byard had made “several” false statements to the special grand jury. The prosecutors didn’t provide details Thursday, but said specific statements would be revealed to Byard’s attorneys in the coming weeks as the case moves toward trial.

The father of one of the assault victims, speaking to WTOP outside the courthouse on Thursday said he was “relieved” at the judge’s decision. “We want to see this thing get going,” he said. “You know, our family needs closure.”

However, he also expressed frustration over the timeline. “The wheels of justice turn very slowly,” he said. “This is gonna go on forever.”

The indictments against both officials followed the release of a scathing report from the special grand jury empaneled by Miyares.

The report faulted the school system’s handling of the first sexual assault, which happened in a high school restroom, saying administrators missed multiple chances to prevent the second assault, which happened months later at another high school after the student charged in the first assault was transferred.

The strongest criticism in the report was reserved for Ziegler who was accused of making a false statement about sexual assaults at the June 2021 school board meeting and signing off on an email to the Stone Bridge High School community that didn’t mention the incident.

Ziegler has two trials scheduled — one for May 22, and the other July 10. Byard’s trial is set for June 20.

The judge overseeing both cases sparked outrage in September 2021 after ordering an alleged domestic violence victim testifying in court jailed on contempt charges after he believed she was high on drugs.

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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