Ziegler Motions to Disqualify Attorney General, Dismiss Indictments Denied

A judge on Thursday denied fired Loudoun public schools superintendent Scott Ziegler’s motions to dismiss indictments against him and to disqualify the state Attorney General from prosecuting his case.

Loudon County Circuit Court Judge James E. Fisher said he disagreed with attorney Erin Harrigan’s argument that Gov. Glenn Youngkin did not have the authority to issue Executive Order 4, authorizing Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the school division. That investigation led to the charges against Ziegler.

Harrigan argued the Virginia code section cited in Youngkin’s order is aimed at limiting the Attorney General’s authority to participate in criminal cases, not give him more authority. She noted the word “investigate” is not in the code and argued it was left out intentionally by the General Assembly to limit the Attorney General’s authority.

Harrigan argued the Attorney General has no jurisdiction to charge Ziegler or any local official in Loudoun, because that lies with the Commonwealth’s Attorney. She also argued the prosecution’s reading of state code threatens to “allow the governor to effectively amalgamate all criminal law enforcement power in one individual, the Attorney General, with the stroke of a pen.”

She has argued the executive order, the investigation into the school division and the indictments were all done without “lawful authority or jurisdiction,” and should therefore be dismissed.

Fisher disagreed, saying Harrigan’s argument would be too narrow of a reading of the state code

Harrigan had also filed a request for more specifics on which of Ziegler’s statements were false, leading to a charge of false publication, along with the means of stating it and which publication published it. She said Thursday that information is needed so the “defendant knows what he’s showing up for.”

Special Counselor Theo Stamos’s team argued it was premature to give that information and that it would be included in the discovery—or list of evidence that may be presented at trial—that was forthcoming.  But they said it was no secret which statement they were referring to and read Ziegler’s statement at the June 22, 2021 School Board meeting, in which he said “to my knowledge we don’t have any record of sexual assaults occurring in our restrooms.” 

Fisher ordered the statement to be included in a bill of particulars but denied the need to include the means of stating it and which publication published it.

Ziegler is charged with three misdemeanor charges: 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. 

Ziegler has two, two-day trials scheduled, on May 22-23 and July 10-11. 

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