One of the more outrageous findings by Federal Judge James Turk, but later discounted after a proper investigation, is the allegation that there was an â??orchestratedâ? effort to expose Michael Hash, the defendant in the Scroggins murder case, to Paul Carter, a federal inmate in a Charlottesville area jail. The purpose of the exposure, purportedly, was to see what information Carter could get from Hash after he was moved from Culpeper to Charlottesville.
Part of this conspiracy, according to Hashâ??s court filings, included law enforcement visiting with Carter several times to â??coachâ? him before talking with Hash.
Perhaps the best answer to that allegation comes from Michael Hashâ??s own legal team. Besides Matthew Bosher, the attorney associated with the Innocence Project, there was also a private investigator working the case for Hash. His name is Stanley Lapekas. In an August 19, 2013 email he wrote â??we are still in the dark regarding any meeting by law enforcement with Carter prior to the Hash transfer.â?
What is striking is that this admission was made more than a year after Judge Turkâ??s decision and months after a civil suit alleging the orchestrated transfer had been filed against me and others.
â??Still in the dark.â? Four important words that convey so much but that counted for so little.
Look again at what Bosher wrote in his suit against me on December 28, 2012:
â??55. Prior to Carterâ??s meeting Hash in the Albemarle Regional Jail, two Culpeper law enforcement officials met with Paul Carter. At that meeting, the Culpeper officials told Carter details about the Scroggins murder and investigation. The details fed to Carter were not public knowledge.â?
He doubles down on the allegation two paragraphs later in the same lawsuit: â??Carter would later testify that he learned details about the crime and investigation from Hash; in fact, he learned those details from Culpeper law enforcement officials.â?
This was written while they were â??still in the dark.â?
Of course, when one is in a federal prison, there is a lot of paperwork tracking who comes and goes–especially when it involves a prisoner or outside law enforcement. There is no paperwork to show any visits to Carter before Hash was transferred because no such â??orchestratedâ? effort took place. The Virginia State Bar investigated and found no evidence of the â??orchestratedâ? transfer, according to the investigation report by Ronald H. McCall, a VSB investigator. And, Fairfax County Police Homicide Detective Robert Murphy, assigned to the reinvestigation of the case after Hash was released, came to the same conclusion.
Michael Hash was moved to Albemarle — but it was to be closer to his attorneys in Charlottesville. There is plenty of documentation to substantiate this.
First, Hash was appointed two attorneys from Charlottesville on May 24, 2000. Secondly, his transfer to the Charlottesville Albemarle jail was on the same day. Thirdly, Mary Dwyer, the chief jailer at the time, wrote at the time that the transfer was to place him closer to his attorneys. She also cited security reasons for the transfer. They wanted to keep the three co-defendants separated but only had room to separate two.
Much was made about the fact that Hash only stayed in Albemarle for a day. Again, the record explains why. Jails trade prisoners. Hash was traded for another prisoner from Albemarle. Culpeper officials soon found him to be a problem. â??Subject started yelling and banging on the door,â? a May 26 report recounted. â??He threw his mattress up in the air and on the floor,â? the report continued. â??Subject is apparently mentally unstable,â? the report concludes. The officer commented: â??Now we know who not to trade prisoners with,â? referring to the Albemarle jail. They sent the troublesome prisoner back to Albemarle.
Hash returned to Culpeper on May 26, according to jail records. That same day Eric Weakley, a co-defendant, was transferred to the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange.
His defense attorneys were located in Orange.
Of course when the opinion came out I did not know any of this. I only knew I had done nothing wrong — but I had no facts to point at as proof. It took months of careful investigation to ferret out the truth. But by March of 2012, I could tell events would not wait.
A newspaper printed an op/ed piece calling for my removal. A non-attorney reporter began to â??analyzeâ? the opinion. Friends of the three co-defendants and others began using the newspaperâ??s unsigned blogs as a forum to whip up hatred and discontent. And, I could sense a powerful force was propelling the national media towards me. The Washington Post Editorial Board left a very cold and hostile message for me. CNN wanted to speak to me. Another television station threatened to have the story on air with an empty seat if I did not appear. There was much more of the same.
And I kept wondering how the opinion could be so wrong. Later, it dawned on me. In the opinion the judge dropped little bombshells that in my dazed and shell shocked state I did not comprehend at the time. But now I do.
The hints began early. On page five of the opinion Judge Turk acknowledges that the Attorney Generalâ??s Office, the office charged with defending the conviction, had â??concededâ? that the Commonwealth, meaning me, had â??violatedâ? Hashâ??s â??due process rights.â? In addition, Judge Turk noted that the Attorney Generalâ??s Office â??has generally admitted that â??there are a number of improprieties in this case â?¦ no question about it.â?
â??Furthermore, (The Attorney Generalâ??s Office) has not challenged Hashâ??s evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct on the basis of its reliability,â? Judge Turk wrote.
The stage then was set. Without opposition from the Attorney Generalâ??s Office, Judge Turk could find the â??cavalcadeâ? of evidence pointing to police and prosecutorial misconduct. He could find that there was a deal between myself and Weakley, that I had hidden polygraph results, that they were exculpatory and that the transfer of Hash to Albemarle was orchestrated.
All of it not true. But I could only watch, muted, as the terrible process of destruction began.
Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.