Lucas recall petition dismissed

Published 12:13 pm Friday, July 2, 2021

A Chesapeake judge has dismissed Virginia Tea Party Chairman Nelson Velez’s petition to recall state Sen. L. Louise Lucas.

Lawyers for the Democratic senator argued at a 9 a.m. hearing July 2 that Virginia’s law allowing voters to recall elected officials doesn’t apply to state senators since the Constitution of Virginia states a member can only be expelled following a two-thirds Senate vote.

Lucas represents Virginia’s 18th District and serves as the Senate’s president pro tempore. The district includes parts of the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry, as well as parts of the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.

The petition, Velez had previously confirmed, is the same one Virginia Beach-based attorney and gun store owner Timothy Anderson started last year following the senator’s appearance at a June 2020 protest at Portsmouth’s now-removed Confederate monument.

The protest had accused Lucas of misusing her office by virtue of having been caught on camera telling Portsmouth police officers that some of the protesters were planning “to put some paint on this thing,” referring to the monument, and, “Y’all cannot arrest them.”

Several hours after Lucas left, a man was severely injured when protesters caused a piece of the monument to fall on him.

Anderson discontinued his involvement with the petition after Lucas filed a defamation lawsuit against him in response to his publicly claiming Lucas had incited a riot and committed a felony. Velez then stepped up to take his place as the movement’s leader, working with Portsmouth resident Charlotte Briglin to collect several thousand signatures.

Per state law, petitions seeking to remove an elected official must be signed by a number of registered voters equal to at least 10% of the votes cast during the last election. In this case, with Lucas having last been re-elected in 2019 with 46,519 votes, that meant at least 4,652 signatures. According to Briglin, the petition had more than 6,800.

WAVY TV 10 reports Lucas is now suing Portsmouth’s former police chief, Angela Greene, and Police Sgt. Kevin McGee for $6.7 million, accusing them of having worked together last year to bring baseless criminal charges against her following the monument incident.

She’d been charged two months after the fact last August with conspiracy to commit a felony and “injuring” a monument valued in excess of $1,000. Police had obtained warrants against her and 18 other protesters — a list that included the president and vice president of Portsmouth’s NAACP chapter, a city school board member and public defenders — by sending McGee to Magistrate Mandy Owens rather than providing Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales with the complete results of their investigation. Police had argued Morales could be called as a witness in the pending cases, but a Richmond-based judge struck down that argument last October, putting the prosecutions back into Morales’ hands.

Morales then petitioned the court to drop all charges, arguing the defendants had a valid entrapment-by-estoppel defense.The term refers to when government officials assure a defendant that his or her conduct is lawful, in this case by not intervening the day of the incident, and then prosecutes that person after the fact. The city fired Greene the same day as Lucas’s charges were dismissed.

Lucas has not yet released a statement on the petition’s dismissal according to her district office staff.

As for Velez and his group of like-minded voters, “We’re not surprised considering a lot of the court rulings we’ve seen over the past several years,” he said. “But it was definitely disappointing that the courts took this kind of action.”