Decision on Lucas charges back with city prosecutor

Published 5:13 pm Thursday, October 8, 2020

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Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales wasn’t a witness to the damage inflicted upon the city’s Confederate monument during a June 10 protest, and therefore, can’t be subpoenaed to testify in the criminal cases pending against state Sen. L. Louise Lucas and other protest-goers.

That was the ruling Richmond Judge Claire Cardwell handed down on Monday morning. The ruling, first reported by WAVY-TV 10, puts the decision on whether to continue prosecuting Lucas back in Morales’ hands.

The senator, whose 18th District includes parts of Franklin, Suffolk and the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry, is charged with two felonies — conspiracy and “injuring” a monument valued in excess of $1,000 — in connection with her presence at the protest.

She was caught on camera the day of the event saying to Portsmouth Police officers “They’re going to put some paint on this thing, and y’all cannot arrest them,” but the senator denies having outright told the protesters to do anything illegal. Several hours after Lucas left the scene, a man was severely injured when protesters beheaded four Confederate soldier figures attached to the monument and caused one to fall on him.

Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene, prior to her being placed on administrative leave in early September, claimed Morales “could be called as a potential witness” in the case against Lucas — an allegation which, if true, would have precluded the commonwealth’s attorney from prosecuting the case. Morales, however, denies having attended the protest.

Acting on that belief, Greene sent one of her officers, Sgt. Kevin McGee, to obtain arrest warrants from Portsmouth Magistrate Mandy Owens rather than providing complete investigative results to Morales’ office and letting the commonwealth’s attorney decide whether charges were warranted.

A total of 19 individuals, including Lucas — a group Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax referred to as the “Portsmouth 19” after the senator’s Sept. 4 arraignment — have now been charged in connection with the June 10 protest. By press time on Tuesday, Morales was unable to be reached for comments as to whether she intends to move forward with any of these cases.