JULY, 2000

 Throughout Hampton Roads, the May 2nd elections were a tribute to incumbency.


Myra Oberndorff won a third term as Mayor of Virginia Beach narrowly defeating the challenger selected and funded through the local Republican establishment, former local newsman Glenn Corillo.  One Virginia Beach councilman, Don Weeks, was retired by the voters: the sole semi-rebel on the council.  In his stead, the voters elected Robert Mandigo thereby proving again that largely false attack ads go well with homey, family ads.  In Norfolk, newcomer Barclay Winn won an open council seat, but Mr. Winn alone is unlikely to change the face of Norfolk politics much.  In Newport News and Hampton there were no electoral surprises worth mentioning     What was most disheartening about these elections, though, were not the winners and losers.  It was the grounds on which the contests were fought.


Not a single candidate for council or school board even discussed the alternative of privatizing education (despite this paperís editorial published in the Virginian-Pilot).  The platform of the so-called reformers in Virginia Beach promised to move taxpayer money from corporate welfare to government school bureaucracy: hardly revolutionary. 

Possibly, if the voters of Hampton Roads were offered a real change in public policy, there would be more of them.  Possibly, if libertarians did what is necessary to contest these winnable elections, there would be a lot more of us.





Governor James Gilmore had occasion twice recently to reply to criticisms of the State of the Commonwealth.  His statements are instructive on the state of Republican philosophy in Virginia.


A recent study of criminal sentencing in Virginia by the United States Civil Rights Commission indicated that the sum total of law enforcement here, for some reason, imprisons a grossly disproportionate number of poor black males (most often for being an underling in the cocaine market) and only imposes capital punishment on people who had court-appointed lawyers with some rare exceptions.  When asked if changes need to be made, the Governor spoke out.  Virginiaís citizens were only locked up for committing crimes.  Every person who has been executed in Virginia deserved it.  Although the Governor could not say why minorities and poor people acted the way they did, they did.  That is only reason why so many are incarcerated.  It was clearly not due to any fault within the criminal justice system.


That is quite a lot to say.  It is, after all, the Virginia criminal justice system that pays competent court appointed counsel less per hour than a janitor earns, refuses to consider proof of innocence that was not produced at trial even in capital cases, empowers law enforcement to confiscate the money and property of certain suspects to subsidize their budgets with, sends the seller of one ounce of marijuana to prison for a

minimum of five years if he or she makes the unwise decision of pleading not guilty (while the State itself hawkishly advances the interests of Big Tobacco), outlaws retail liquor sales by citizens (but keeps a cool monopoly for the Commonwealth), outlaws gambling (but runs a state lottery with far worse odds than any casino could legally offer), and outlaws adult lovemaking of all kinds, except missionary intercourse between man and wife (but only busts the homosexuals for sodomy).

When taken at his word then, Governor Gilmore is truly a zealot for Big Government.  If the personal freedoms of Virginians have to be lost in some ways, or many ways, so be it.  The criminal law is a very effective way, after all, to impose proper standards of behavior on foolish people.  Build more prisons and the prisoners will come.


But the Governor's most penetrating recent remark was saved for actually defending a different kind of freedom: the ownership of guns by citizens.  


When Washington, D.C. Mayor Tony Williams suggested that Virginia and Maryland adopt laws that would help restrict the flow of guns into the District, Governor Gilmore waxed philosophical.  "The criminal law is not designed to overcome the liberties of free people; the criminal law is designed to bring accountability and responsibility to those who would violate those freedoms".


Nuff said, Governor!  When can we expect the Commonwealth's leaders to be held accountable for tyranny and hypocrisy?




Way back in April, 1994, armed special agents of the IRS and the Virginia board of alcohol control (ABC) ransacked the business and homes of three Hampton Roads citizens.  Anyone in our governments' way was threatened with a gun, including children.  The armed occupation of both Jewish Mother restaurants lasted the entire day: Saturday.  Monday was not available to the agents because of previously scheduled training.  They took whatever they pleased and were not receptive to any questions from anyone.

Five months later, no property seized was returned with no explanation offered.  No criminal or civil charges came about.  It turned out that our governments had made a whopping mistake in trusting a story that could not possibly be true and then lied about the situation to the Norfolk federal court while under oath in order to get the search warrants.  Looking for millions in skimmed profits and untold pounds of cocaine, the sum total of the raid produced a couple of marijuana seeds.

Can the IRS and the Commonwealth be held accountable for atrociously incompetent and dishonest law enforcement?  These years later we are a little closer to knowing the answer in the Jewish Mother case.

The victims filed suit in March, 1996 naming twenty-four government employees as defendants.  Given the Norfolk federal court's famed "rocket docket" there should have been a trial by early 1997: no exceptions.  But Washington and Richmond have obviously decided not to play by the rules set down for the rest of us.

Our governments have objected to every point in the record and appealed every objection.  They claim to be immune from suit even under these outrageous circumstances.  The case is presently on appeal again by the governments ending the chance of a trial anytime soon.

This case is certain to be a test for a branch of government other than just the executive.  Will the judicial branch of the federal government in Virginia be inclined to impose a truly fair trial on these defendants given the facts?  A poll of knowledgeable persons might say no.

When the case drew for assignment Judge Robert Doumar the numbers in that poll would have changed.  Maybe the local bastion for so-called "conservative" legal philosophy, there is scarcely a big business or a government entity that Judge Doumar has not, in the end, sided with in suits by individual citizens.  The question in some minds had become how the Jewish Mother case would disappear: not whether.

Well, that question also has not been answered and may, in fact, have a flawed premise.  In a recent one hundred plus page opinion, Judge Doumar denied parts of the governments' motions to dismiss the case which had argued that the IRS and ABC are all but immune from liability to the citizens whom they are sworn to protect.

Much of the dense arrogance and bureaucratic mentality committed by the government agents is on display in the opinion.  The comic fraud that the sole informant was is detailed.  So is the impossibility of the IRS/ABC numbers supporting the search warrants.  So are the outright lies that constituted the search warrant affidavits.  Although three more high-level government defendants were dismissed and the embarrassing fact that someone with IRS or ABC stole a gold watch was suppressed, Judge Doumar seems to clearly state that two mid-level employees must face a jury trial on charges of violating the Constitution.


There is "conservative" hedging throughout the opinion, but still, maybe someday in this case, it will be the citizens of a jury judging the IRS's behavior rather than the other way around.


This newspaper will keep you posted.


















The Hampton Roads Freedom News