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Former Loudoun County Public Schools superintendent Scott Ziegler arrives at the Loudoun County courthouse for a scheduling hearing Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022.

Motions filed Thursday by attorneys for fired Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler seek to dismiss the indictments he faces and to disqualify the Attorney General’s Office from prosecuting the case.

Motions filed by Erin Harrigan, from the office of Gentry Locke Attorneys in Richmond continue to challenge the legitimacy of the charges and the investigation that was launched by the Youngkin administration into Loudoun County Public Schools’ handling of its sexual assault scandal.

Ziegler is charged with one count of false publication, one count of prohibited conduct, and one count of penalizing an employee for a court appearance. The latter two charges are related to the firing of a special education teacher who, after reporting she was repeatedly groped by one of her students, filed two Title IX complaints, testified to the special grand jury investigating the school district, and spoke out at a School Board meeting. All are misdemeanors. 

The motion to dismiss the cases claims the Office of the Attorney General lacks authority to prosecute Ziegler and that its investigation was “without any lawful authority or jurisdiction,” and that the special grand jury impaneled in the case had no authority to issue the indictments.  

The motion claims the governor had no authority to issue Executive Order 4, which launched the investigation, and states that no prior governor or attorney general has ever “asserted the authority now claimed in these cases.”

“The present indictments highlight the dangerous precedent set forth by [Executive Order 4] and the Attorney General’s investigation of LCPS, when the tools of criminal law enforcement are seized by statewide political officials to be used against disfavored persons,” the motion states.

It also states that the attorney general has no jurisdiction to charge Ziegler or any local official in Loudoun County because that power lies with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. 

The motion portrays the investigation of the school division as a political act that grew out of efforts by the Fight for Schools political action committee that stirred protests against the School Board and school division over policies concerning COVID mitigation, diversity, equity curriculum and transgendered students. The motion notes that criticism of Loudoun school leaders was a central campaign theme for both Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares. 

It alleges that because Miyares used criticism of the Loudoun school division as a central element of his campaign that he is not acting “fair, impartial and free from any conflicts of interest that divide their ‘loyalty to the impartial administration of justice,’” as required of prosecutors by the Virginia Constitution.

The motion claims the findings of the special grand jury should have been referred to a regular grand jury for the consideration of indictments. 

The second motion seeks access to evidence of Ziegler’s alleged wrongdoing as well as other evidence collected during the eight-month investigation. The motion claims thousands of records and documents were given to the Attorney General’s Office in response to subpoenas, but the special grand jury report said they only reviewed 100 pieces of evidence. 

The final motion filed by Ziegler’s attorney asked for more specific information regarding the charges against him. According to the motion, the charges do not identify what he said that was false or untrue the way it was delivered or the identity of the publisher, all key information to Ziegler’s defense on the false publication charge, according to the motion.

It states the school board meeting on June 22, where the offense allegedly occurred, was over six hours long and “it is nearly impossible for him to determine what particular statement forms the basis of this charge,” or if it was even said at that meeting. The motion seeks specific information about which statement made by Ziegler is the one that caries the charge so the defense doesn’t waste its time trying to demonstrate which statements were true. 

Meanwhile, earlier on Thursday, a two-day jury trial was set the felony perjury charged filed against Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard as a result of the investigation. The trial is set to begin June 20. 

Byard has been on leave without pay since charge was filed against him Dec. 12. 

The perjury charge carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

(15) comments

Jonathan

I'm going to step out on a limb here but anyone in Virginia can go to a magistrate and file criminal charges. The AG and Governor are the chief law enforcement agents in the state. Mr. Ziegler and his crack legal team now assert that the AG and Governor lack the same right to investigate and file charges that every other Virginian has?

I will enjoy watching Mr. Ziegler spend our tax money defending himself against the charges brought against him. It's certainly better than letting him live off the dole for a full year.

Loudoun needs to wake up to the corruption infesting the local government and school boards and make a plan to something about it during the next election cycles. This isn't going to solve itself.

MLeffler

Ziegler has been fired. Why would tax payers pay for his attorney fees? He doesn't work for LCPS anymore, or for Loudoun at all.

ace10

Tim, please read the "Handbook for Virginia Grand Jurors." It's available online. It might help you gain a little understanding of the various GJ processes in Virginia. It's obvious that your comments are motivated by political allegiance, but spending just ten or fifteen minutes getting familiar with the process and the framework might go a long way in saving you from posting such nonsense in the future.

Chris Manthos

Who's paying for this high dollar Richmond firm? Lemme' guess.

timsmith

I've said all along the grand jury didn't do a thorough job. My goodness. They never bothered to question Dr. Ziegler! And now we learn that thousands of documents were supplied to the grand jury -- yet they reviewed only 100 documents (by their own admission). This entire process has been tainted with politics. Indictments were issued on the flimsiest of evidence. Please let justice prevail!

Weevil

Very, very true.

ace10

Your understanding of the legal system is as remarkably-poor as timmy's.

kronos

No, you've parroted the Democratic Party talking points all along... because that's all you really know how to do.

Tadpole

You really don’t understand how a grand jury works. A) they only hear the witnesses presented by the prosecution and B) they only review the documents given to them by the prosecution. Thus the expression that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. So for you to say the GJ didn’t do a thorough job is nonsense.

With all that said, a prosecutor rarely brings a case to the grand jury that they don’t believe they can prove. The reason being that as much as a guilty verdict is a political victory, a not guilty verdict is a political nightmare.

timsmith

With all due respect, if I were a grand juror, I'd never vote to indict someone if I didn't hear the person's side of the story. I'd be asking all sorts of questions of the prosecutor. I'm simply not impressed by this grand jury. They were manipulated by a political process that reflects very poorly on them.

Tadpole

Then I hope you’re on my grand jury if a DA every tries to indict me because you’ll never indict anyone. The defense gets to put on their case at trial. The GJ just decides if the DA has enough to go to trial.

ljheidel

Any prosecutor worth his salt could get the Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich. That's why everybody needs to take a breath and wait for this goes to trial before they declare Ziegler guilty. Was this politically motivated? Maybe. Maybe not. Another reason to defer to the trial court. A guilty verdict proves those people on the anti-LCPS admin side were right, and that Loudoun County is as corrupt as they say it is. A not guilty verdict or dismissal proves that it's even *more* corrupt than they say it is. It's a win-win. So, the indictment is politically advantageous no matter the verdict.

virginia_sgp

Tim, you always remind us to assume someone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (Rational people understand that principle only applies to prosecutions and is Internet to minimum innocent people in jail by letting a considerable number of guilty folks out).

So let me ask you this. Do you assume the suspect in the Idaho murders is innocent? Would you plead for officials to let him remain free until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Or are your platitudes just convenient gibberish you spew to defend the indefensible actions of LCPS?

norges53

Motion denied and on Monday let us have new indictments!

LocoN8tiv

Everything around here is tainted with politics! I have no use for our new Gov but at least they stepped in and DID something...there certainly is enough smoke to figure out there's a fire somewhere! Geez, I hope this guy doesn't get all his money and get off Scott free for his gross negligence and incompetence!

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