The Bulletin

Youngkin’s new parole board includes sheriff who confronted McAuliffe on campaign trail

By: - January 17, 2022 12:02 am

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is sworn in to office in front of the Capitol on Jan. 15, 2022. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

On the campaign trail, Gov. Glenn Youngkin promised to fire his Democratic predecessor’s Parole Board on the first day he took office.

And a few hours after he was sworn in on Saturday, that’s exactly what he did.

The reconfigured board — a decidedly more conservative group than the body that approved a series of controversial release decisions that angered Republicans last year — includes a few familiar faces from the campaign trail.

Among the appointees are Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin, who drew a testy response from Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, during a campaign event last year.

The exchange was captured on video and promoted by Youngkin’s campaign. In it, Partin asks McAuliffe if he supports defunding the police in light of his endorsement by a group that called for reallocating law enforcement dollars.

McAuliffe, who had said he backed increasing law enforcement budgets, bristled at the question. “Are you out of your mind? I invested in law enforcement.” He went on to ask if Partin was “out of his mind.”

Partin called McAuliffe’s response “unbelievable” and McAuliffe replied, “I don’t care what you believe.”

Youngkin’s new Parole Board also includes Cheryl Nici-O’Connell, who Youngkin’s campaign featured in an ad accusing the current board of being too lenient. In the ad, Nici recounts being shot in the head in 1984 as a young Richmond police officer.

“I’m terrified because McAuliffe puts politics over the safety of Virginians and victims’ rights,” she says in the TV spot. “I’m speaking to you as a victim. Virginia simply won’t be safe with four more years of Terry McAuliffe.”

The advertisement was criticized as misleading by The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, who noted that it gave the impression the man convicted of shooting Nici was released when, in fact, the Parole Board under McAuliffe denied his release.

The offices of the Virginia Parole Board in Richmond. (Virginia Mercury)

The board will be chaired by Chadwick Dotson, a former prosecutor and circuit court judge in Wise County who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination to run for state Senate last year in the seat left empty following the death of former Sen. Ben Chafin from COVID-19.

Dotson currently serves as dean of students at Appalachian School of Law and writes about Major League Baseball.

Youngkin also appointed Tracy Banks, a Charlottesville lawyer and Carmen Williams, who works in Chesterfield for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

The Parole Board is responsible for making parole determinations for people convicted of crimes prior to 1995, when the state abolished parole. The board also reviews requests for geriatric release.

Youngkin’s executive order also tasks the new board with reviewing its procedures, increasing transparency and providing “recommendations for legislative, administrative and policy changes that will improve the administration of the agency in fulfilling its solemn public safety mission.”

And it authorizes new Attorney General Jason Miyares to open a criminal investigation into the previous board’s alleged failure to follow laws requiring the notification of victims.

“To this day, the family members and victims have no answers as to how or why the Virginia Parole Board failed to abide by the laws governing its operations, and no one has been held accountable,” Youngkin wrote in the order.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.