POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia State Police trooper has been placed on administrative leave after his alleged involvement in the assault of a juvenile female student at a private, Catholic school in Powhatan County, sources told 8News.
On Friday, the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office announced that a criminal investigation was underway, following the Dec. 3 report of this incident, which authorities said allegedly happened at The Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School. According to the release, the Powhatan County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office requested a special prosecutor be assigned.
Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor told 8News that her office was informed of a judge’s decision to be assigned as the special prosecutor late last week, and is in the early stages of the investigation.
“The law allows the local prosecutor’s office to file a motion with the judge whenever they feel that they have a conflict of interest, and, it’s important for people to know, it’s even if they feel there is an appearance of a conflict of interest,” 8News legal analyst Russ Stone said. “It’s not a common thing, but it’s also not unheard of.”
Charges have not yet been filed. But a spokesperson for the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation was centered on a reported assault.
“It could be extremely broad, and you could be talking about any manner of activities that do encompass a lot of felonies, some very serious felonies,” Stone said. “But without more details as to what is exactly alleged, the simple word, ‘assault,’ suggests a misdemeanor.”
Sources also told 8News that there could be more than one alleged victim.
“We do not identify the nature of a disciplinary investigation, especially since no charges have been placed,” VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller said.
This comes less than three weeks after another VSP trooper was named as the lone suspect in a cross-country triple homicide, murdering the family of a 15-year-old girl with whom he entered into a deceptive online relationship, according to California authorities. Although that suspect, Austin Lee Edwards, had more recently been employed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, VSP released a statement last week that cited “human error” as the reason for “an incomplete database query during Edwards’ hiring process.” The statement also noted that VSP authorities believed that was an isolated incident.
“The first thing that the Commonwealth’s Attorney is going to do is ask for all of the reports of the investigation that has been done to date by any law enforcement agency,” Stone said. “In a case where the allegation is something of this nature, that’s largely going to result in interviews — interviews with potential victims, interviews with witnesses, potential witnesses — to, perhaps, reviewing cell phone records. We just don’t know without knowing more details about what is alleged to have occurred.”