Attorney General Jason Miyares blasted Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano in a radio appearance Wednesday, blaming Descano’s prosecutorial philosophy for murders of homeless in Washington, D.C. and New York. Miyares said Descano’s office didn’t give a harsh enough sentence to the alleged murderer when he was facing charges in 2020.

“Sometimes we hear about these policy issues, and you maybe hear about and think it doesn’t really impact people’s lives,” Miyares said on O’Connor and Company. “In this case, you had five individuals that have been shot, two were tragically killed by someone that has been classified as a serial killer. And just to be clear, my understanding from my office is this individual’s already out on a federal robbery charge. He was on probation for that, and gets picked up for abduction and burglary, gets his charge reduced to a misdemeanor.”

Earlier in the conversation, Larry O’Connor summarized, “Instead of the normal 5-to-40-year sentences, he was given, by Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, an 11-month sentence. Miyares said it’s common knowledge among prosecutors that only five and a half months of an 11-month charge are spent in jail.

“So you have an example of what I have said is a huge problem: this criminal-first, victim-last mindset of prosecutors that, and I’ve said before, that naively think good intentions guarantee good results,” Miyares said.

He said prosecutors are “failing at their jobs, and now people are dying.”

Miyares’ comment echoes statements he made during his campaign for election. Miyares has been critical of Descano and other progressive prosecutors, but he’s been stymied by the legislature in efforts to expand his authority to intervene in local prosecutions. In Virginia and nationally, there’s a broader debate over the role of prosecutors, with Republicans arguing that the justice system works best when prosecutors push for the harshest sentences the law allows. Progressive prosecutors, backed in some cases by major Democratic donors and criminal justice reform organizations, argue that prosecution is more than seeking convictions.

“Another example of “progressive” prosecutors’ pro-criminal policies. These murders should have been prevented. Fairfax CA @SteveDescano had the chance and failed. Reduced charges/light sentences for dangerous offenders is not progressive, but regressive,” Miyares tweeted Wednesday.

In a three-tweet thread, Descano replied, “Typical uninformed scaremongering from our overmatched AG @JasonMiyaresVA. If he was competent at all he’d know that prosecutorial outcomes are constrained by evidence, and there are different evidentiary standards for arrest vs. successful prosecution.”

I guess in @JasonMiyaresVA version of the world anyone who is even potentially guilty of any crime is incarcerated forever regardless of the evidence,” he continued. “More lying to the people from @JasonMiyaresVA. Probably just blowing off steam after his shameful effort to weaponize the trauma of victims in service of his failed power grab in the General Assembly.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jason Miyares” by Jason Miyares.