Virginia attorney general-elect grounded in the experiences his mother faced fleeing communist Cuba

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Attorney General-Elect Jason Miyares says he does not believe in putting the criminal first and the victim last, suggesting there are some commonwealth’s attorneys out there who may do that.  

WAVY-TV once interviewed Miyares and his Cuban-born mother, Miriam, who fled communist Cuba in 1965.

“He started bringing home Cs to school because he was going to be the next Magic Johnson,” Miriam said while sitting next to her son.

“I can tell you that didn’t last long with a Cuban mother.” her son replied.

Virginia Attorney General-Elect Miyares’ mother, Miriam, has greatly influenced her son personally and professionally.

“Fleeing a country with no respect for the rule of law, no respect for individual rights and individual dignity, that I will then take on the role of those great Virginians [who have served as state attorney general] that have come before me is not lost on me,” Miyares said.

Miyares defeated Democrat incumbent Mark Herring running in opposition to what Miyares calls “social justice prosecutors.” 

“He had opening bragged that he had turned the Attorney General’s Office into a progressive powerhouse,” Miyares said. 

Miyares sets up this contrast with his predecessor: “We are going to have some different focuses… I am going to go back to calling balls and strikes and we are going to enforce the law. I am not going to do things through political agenda… How I approach the office, and I am going to shift it back into a public safety focus. I think that is going to be critically important. I think we have a public safety crisis right now in Virginia with a murder rate the highest it has been in decades.” 

Not in office yet, Miyares already ruffling feathers, criticizing Norfolk’s past refusal — before the drug was legalized was legalized — to prosecute simple possession of marijuana cases, 

“I do not believe in a criminal first and victim last mindset. I don’t think you should arbitrarily not prosecute certain crimes,” he said.

Newly-elected Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi is one of those called out by Miyares and told us,  

“As a prosecutor, I believe we can keep our community safe while honoring people civil rights, you better believe it.” 

Miyares’ legislative agenda this year includes passing a new law allowing the Attorney General’s Office to intercede in local legal cases.

“That would allow the Attorney General to come in and say, ‘You are not choosing to do your job’ so I will have the ability to prosecute certain crimes in their place,” the soon-to-be-sworn-in attorney general said.

When we told Fatehi what Miyares had told us, he had a quick response.

“He got elected to do his job, and I got elected to do my job. The Virginia Constitution makes it real clear the attorney general does not have any supervisory authority over local prosecutors. We answer to our voters,” Fatehi said. 

Miyares plans to investigate the Virginia Parole Board’s early release of violent criminals due to COVID-19 concerns. Miyares picked up on 10 On Your Side’s reporting of Suffolk resident Bessie Rountree’s rape, robbery and murder in 1979.

“Bessie Rountree’s killer was given not one, not two, but three life sentences without the possibility of parole. The family of Bessie Rountree found out her killer was getting out on the news,” he said.

It should also be noted: Retired Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson only found out the night before that her killer was to be freed. 

Both family and prosecutor are required to be informed well in advance of any parole or release.  

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10 On Your Side asked Miyares about former Parole Board Chair Adrianne Bennett, who is now a Virginia Beach judge. Does she deserve to be investigated? Miyares seemed certain of that.

“Yes, she was on the Parole Board. She will be part of what we review, and that is absolutely for sure. There is no way we can do a review without her being part of it,” he said.

Bennett was appointed by the General Assembly, which can also decide not to reappoint her in the future.  

Miyares will also emphasize the public service aspect of the office.

“The first thing I want to change is the culture to make sure there is a standard of excellence, and this idea you are there to serve and not be served. I want the servant leadership mindset of everyone who comes in to work in my office,” Miyares said.

We asked where Miyares’ allegiance will be.

“I don’t have an oath of allegiance to any political party. I don’t even take an oath of allegiance even to Gov.-elect Youngkin, although he is a close friend of mine. My oath of allegiance is to follow the law, and to respect the code of Virginia, and the people of Virginia,” he said.

In the end, Miyares says he’s a son, a husband, a father and his family keeps him humble.

“Like when my daughter’s friend came over to the house, and she asked, ‘Is that your daddy’ and my daughter said, ‘Yes, but he’s just a big dork.’ Kids have a great way of grounding you,” Miyares said with laughter.  

Miyares also cares about accountability. Investigating where the government has failed, and he uses what he calls the failures of the Parole Board as an example of that.  

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