RICHMOND(September 9, 2019) – Virginia NORML has honored Attorney General Mark R. Herring with the 2019 Vanguard Award for his contributions to advancing cannabis law reform in the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring has called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, action to resolve past convictions and a move towards legal and regulate adult use. In calling for reform, Attorney General Herring cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color.
“As attorney general, I have a special obligation to fight for justice, opportunity, and equality for all Virginians, which means I’m always thinking about whether we are living up to that standard, and it is clear to me that criminalizing marijuana possession isn’t working,” said Attorney General Herring. “We have a system where getting caught with one joint, or a small amount of cannabis can totally derail someone’s life. There are smarter, better ways we can approach cannabis, and that begins with decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts, addressing past convictions, and taking responsible steps towards legalization. I want to thank Virginia NORML for honoring me with this award and all the hard work they do to advocate for cannabis reform.”
“Virginia NORML is thrilled to honor Attorney General Herring with this years award,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, Director, Virginia NORML. “His advocacy for not only decriminalizing but legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana has significantly elevated the conversation regarding the immediate need for legislative action and demonstrates his unwavering commitment to justice for all Virginians.”
In the last decade the number of first time marijuana convictions in Virginia has risen 53%, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017. About 90% of marijuana arrests in 2018 were for possession alone and arrests for cannabis possession have increased about 115%, from around 13,000 in 2003 to nearly 28,000 in 2017. The cost of cannabis criminal enforcement is estimated to be up to $81 million each year.
The weight of the current approach to cannabis enforcement falls disproportionately on African Americans and people and communities of color. According to the Virginia Crime Commission, African Americans comprised 46% of all first offense possession arrests from 2007 to 2016, despite comprising just 20% of Virginia’s population and despite studies consistently showing that marijuana usage rates are comparable between African Americans and white Americans.
About Virginia NORML
Virginia NORML is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the decriminalization of the possession of cannabis and the regulation of in-state medical and adult-use production and sales for a safer Commonwealth.
Law Enforcement leaders announce Project Guardian-DMV
A new illegal firearms initiative announced November 15th, Project Guardian-DMV, is designed to reduce violent crime and further enforce federal firearms laws across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV).
The new initiative builds on the Justice Department’s national effort, Project Guardian, announced by Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday.
“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” said Attorney General Barr. “The Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian. Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
Project Guardian-DMV will localize the effort to the DMV region, and expands upon the current partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia, the ATF, and Metro Police Department, and now also includes the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Maryland and the Western District of Virginia, and the Virginia State Police.
“Through this partnership, we hope to stanch the flow of illegal guns from the Commonwealth of Virginia to Washington, Baltimore, and other cities in the Northeast, where, too often, they are used to commit violent crimes,” said Thomas T. Cullen, U.S Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. “We will work closely with our U.S. attorney partners, the ATF, the MPD, and the Virginia State Police to identify individuals and groups in Western Virginia engaged in this deadly enterprise and put them in federal prison.”
“The public is on notice that we are deadly serious about illegal firearms offenses,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Now with leadership of Attorney General Barr, all the tentacles of the Department of Justice, including the ATF and its Crime Gun Intelligence capabilities, and the amazing men and women in blue on the beat, we are doubling down on illegal firearms with Project Guardian.”
Reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws have always been among the Department’s highest priorities. In order to develop a new and robust effort to promote and ensure public safety, the Department reviewed and adapted some of the successes of past strategies to curb gun violence. Project Guardian draws on the Department’s earlier achievements, such as the “Triggerlock” program, and it serves as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). In addition, the initiative emphasizes the importance of using all modern technologies available to law enforcement to promote gun crime intelligence.
“Working together with our federal and local partners is key to reducing gun violence and violent crime in the region,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “Project Guardian will allow us to identify specific incidents and trends, thereby enabling us to move quickly in investigating and prosecuting violent crime in the most appropriate venue. The correlation between the availability and use of illegal guns and violent crime is undeniable, and we will continue to work closely with our partners in the law enforcement community in the promotion of public safety and the pursuit of justice. “
“We are committed to working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to get guns off of our streets, in order to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods,” said Rob K. Hur, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. “If you use a gun, you could face federal time, where there is no parole—ever. Please, put down the guns and save a life—maybe even your own.”
“Straw purchasers and firearms traffickers do more than commit paperwork violations or illegally sell a firearm – they knowingly put firearms in the hands of people who should not have them, including violent offenders. These traffickers have no regard for the safety of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia communities,” said Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Washington Field Division. “As part of Project Guardian, ATF will continue to work alongside our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and U.S. Attorney’s Officers to ensure anyone committing these crimes is held accountable. We are putting all gun traffickers on notice that we will find you; you will be held accountable; and you will be punished under the law.”
“Criminals do not concern themselves with state line or jurisdictions, so we have ensured that our efforts to stop the illegal flow of guns into Maryland involves working closely with our neighboring ATF Field Division in Washington, as well as neighboring U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Virginia and D.C.,” said Rob Cekada, Special Agent in Charge of ATF Baltimore Field Division.
“Our focus is on identifying, investigating, and incarcerating anyone who uses firearms to commit violent crime, and those who traffic or straw purchase firearms are supplying these offenders.
Project Guardian serves to further strengthen our multi-state and District partnerships with law enforcements and prosecutors so we can brings these criminals to justice.”
Project Guardian’s national and DMV implementation is based on five principles:
1) Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.
2) Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees.
Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.
3) Improved Information Sharing. On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.
4) Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF should engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety.
Additionally, United States Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to individuals prohibited based on mental health.
5) Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF.
Pamela Seay named new Virginia War Memorial Foundation President
The Board of Directors of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation have announced that Pamela R. Seay has been chosen to serve as its new President. She will join the Foundation on December 1, 2019, and assume full duties for leadership and oversight of the nonprofit organization and its staff on January 1, 2020.
Established in 2000 in Richmond, the Virginia War Memorial Foundation (VWMF) is the private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation that provides funding for the educational outreach, patriotic events, historical programs and exhibits, and the documentary film series Virginians at War.
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Seay previously served as Senior Vice President for Advancement at the Virginia Historical Society (now the Virginia Museum of History and Culture) from 1988-2018. She served on the staffs of the Science Museum of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and has consulted for numerous organizations including the Valentine Museum, the Virginia Commission for the American Civil War Sesquicentennial, and the 175th Anniversary of the Executive Mansion Commission.
“The members of our Board of Directors are extremely pleased that such a respected and experienced leader as Pam Seay will be taking the helm of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation at this exciting time in the history of the Foundation and the Memorial that it supports,” said Rear Admiral Frank Rennie, IV, USN (Ret.) and VWMF board chair.
“In early 2020, we will celebrate the Grand Opening of the C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion and the dedication of the Shrine of Memory – Global War on Terrorism and Beyond at the expanded Virginia War Memorial. Her leadership will be critical to our continued success as the premier state war memorial in America for the decades ahead.”
“At this time of leadership transition, the Board of Directors expresses its pride and appreciation for the work of Executive Director John Hekman as he enters his planned retirement at the end of the year,” said Admiral Rennie. “Admiral Hekman has served this Foundation and the Virginia War Memorial as an exemplary leader in a variety of roles for over two decades. We wish him well in retirement but we will continue to look to him for his counsel and wisdom during this time of transition.”
Dedicated in 1956, the mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. The Memorial includes the names of the over 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, in the Persian Gulf and the ongoing Global War on Terrorism. The Memorial, which is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS), is located at 621 South Belvidere Street in downtown Richmond and is open for visitation seven days a week.
For more information about the Virginia War Memorial and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation, please visit www.vawarmemorial.org.
Virginia War Memorial announces winners of 2019 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest
A middle schooler from Hanover County and a high school junior from Patrick County were the first place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2019 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The winners were announced at the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony held November 11 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.
The annual contest was open to middle and high school age students throughout Virginia in public or private schools or homeschooled. The essay topic was “A Virginian Who Served in The Military in The 20th or 21st Century Who Inspired Me.”
The student writers of the winning essay in each category won a cash prize of $250 and were invited to read aloud their essay during the 2019 Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony. Their teachers were also invited to Richmond and each received a $100 prize to be used for classroom supplies.
The winner in the middle school category was Brooke Eubanks, a 6th grader at Chickahominy Middle School in Hanover County. Her essay was about her uncle, Army Sergeant First Class Eddie O. Johnson. Her teacher is Cheryl Clarke.
The winner in the high school category was Caroline Vernon, an 11th grader at Patrick County High School in Stuart. Her essay profiled her brother, Justin Vernon. Lisa Belcher is her teacher.
Brooke and Caroline read aloud their winning essays as part of the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony. They were congratulated by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who was the keynote speaker for the annual program.
Runners-up in the Veterans Day Student Essay Contest were also announced. These were:
- Clarke Canova, Homeschooled, 8th Grade, James City County
- Jaqulynne Stewart, Edward Drew Middle School, 6th Grade, Falmouth (Stafford County)
- Rashad Seaborne, Maggie Walker Governors School, 11th Grade, Richmond
- You Jin Lee, Douglas Freeman High School, 12th Grade, Henrico County
All of the first place and runner-up essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website at www.vawarmemorial.org/learn/contests-scholarships/essays/.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism. Located in downtown Richmond at 621 South Belvidere Street, the Virginia War Memorial is open to the public seven days a week for tours and visitation. The Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. For more details, visit www.virginiawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 operating locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
Governor Northam announces first ever International Trade Strategic Plan for Commonwealth of Virginia
Governor Ralph Northam announced the first ever comprehensive International Trade Strategic Plan for Virginia. The plan lays out an aggressive goal to expand the Commonwealth’s international trade output by 50 percent over the next 15 years, increasing Virginia’s position from 41st in exports per capita to the top 20 states for exports per capita by 2035.
Governor Northam presented the plan at the 71st Virginia Conference on World Trade, where he highlighted specific initiatives that support existing Virginia businesses in building their capabilities and expanding networks and markets, while also attracting and promoting export-intensive companies that can serve as anchors and growth-drivers for Virginia’s economy.
“International trade is a powerful economic engine for our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Maintaining Virginia’s position as the best state to do business and ensuring that all regions of the Commonwealth can participate in our economic growth requires that we boost our international trade. Virginia has a great deal to offer, including the East Coast’s deepest port, and we are committed to doing more to support and promote growth-minded companies as they successfully expand into global markets. I am proud of the many partners collaborating to meet our aggressive goals in this area, and help position the Commonwealth to be more competitive in a globally connected economy.”
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring led a steering committee comprised of prominent business leaders from around Virginia and staff from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), the Port of Virginia, and other state agencies in developing the plan. The group engaged hundreds of companies, a dozen state and federal agencies and trade associations, and many state, regional, and local leaders across the public and private sectors, geographies, and industries, ensuring the final recommendations represent a broad cross-section of Virginians.
“I would like to commend everyone involved in this ambitious undertaking, particularly the members of the International Trade Plan Steering Committee, to analyze Virginia’s strengths and opportunities in the international trade arena and to develop a bold plan to increase Virginia exports by 50 percent,” said Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring. “The initiatives included in this plan will positively impact every region of the Commonwealth, from rural to urban, and every industry, including agriculture and forestry, making Virginia’s economy even stronger and more resilient.”
“Virginia has best-in-class export promotion programs to help businesses enter global markets and attract large-scale, export-intensive companies,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The International Trade Strategic Plan represents an unprecedented partnership to move the Commonwealth forward as a major player in international trade and help Virginia’s businesses become more competitive in the global marketplace, resulting in increased exports and new job creation across the Commonwealth.”
While Virginia has highly-regarded international trade development programs and a long track record of supporting export growth with partner companies of all sizes, the Commonwealth still trails other states in international trade activity. Virginia’s exports per capita rank 41st in the country, and 38th in imports as a share of gross state product.
The International Trade Strategic Plan identifies 26 initiatives across three categories to support existing companies with international trade and to attract and expand trade-intensive businesses to Virginia:
• Exports: Expand the capacity of state agencies to build capabilities, facilitate connections, and share risk with Virginia firms that export
• International Supply Chains: Increase focus of state agencies to build capabilities and facilitate connections for firms that import critical elements of their supply chains
• Business Attraction, Infrastructure, Tourism, and Other Enablers: Fully align business expansion and recruitment activity with international trade efforts; advocate for critical investments in logistics infrastructure and tourism strategies; enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to serve Virginia businesses through increased coordination among agencies; and engage state and federal leaders strategically and systematically to raise awareness of trade issues
These initiatives have the potential to double the number of internationally trading firms that the Commonwealth supports, adding nearly $18 billion in annual exports and well over 150,000 high-quality jobs. This increase in exports and jobs will position Virginia as a leader in export activity, diversify the Commonwealth’s economy, and contribute to a better quality of life in communities across all regions of Virginia.
Since taking office, Governor Northam has hosted ambassadors from Mexico, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, and Switzerland at the Executive Mansion in Richmond to discuss the Commonwealth’s international trade relationships and encourage investment in Virginia.
The Governor also presented the 2019 Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade to The Turman Group, an operator of lumber facilities, land development, and other vertically integrated companies, located in Carroll County. The annual award recognizes a Virginia business that has increased its international sales while promoting the best interests of its employees and the surrounding community. The Turman Group joined VEDP’s flagship Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program in February 2008 and graduated in January 2010. Since then, the company has grown its annual sales to $120 million and is active in more than 30 countries globally.
The International Trade Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth of Virginia is available here.
Governors announce historic ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ to rebuild American Legion Bridge, connect Interstate Highway System
Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) announced a bi-state, bipartisan accord to create a new, unified Capital Beltway, replace the aging American Legion Bridge and relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The two governors made the announcement at the annual Capital Region Transportation Forum in Washington, DC.
“A new bridge means commuters will get to work and back home faster,” said Governor Northam. “Our teams have identified a way to fix one of the worst traffic hot spots in the country. This demonstrates what can get done when leaders come together to find shared solutions to tough regional problems. This is about helping people see their families more, grow their businesses, and further unlock the region’s vast economic potential.”
“The ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ is a once-in-a-generation achievement for the capital region,” said Governor Hogan. “A bipartisan, commonsense, interstate agreement such as this has eluded elected leaders throughout the region for many decades. Together with our partners in Virginia, we are building a foundation for even greater economic growth, greater opportunity for our citizens, and advancing real, lasting, transformative improvements for the entire Washington metropolitan region.”
The project complements ongoing plans by both governors in their jurisdictions—advancing a region-wide vision for a seamless network of reliable travel options around the Capital Beltway, and along Interstates 270 and 95, 395, and 66.
The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.
The American Legion Bridge has been operating beyond its capacity for nearly four decades. Daily traffic has grown 390 percent since the bridge opened in 1962, with 235,000 vehicles using it daily. More than 40 percent of the region’s population travels this segment of the Capital Beltway, and the region expects to grow by another 1.2 million people by 2040. Both governors have made it a top priority to identify a long-term, seamless solution for the Capital Beltway.
The project will replace the existing lanes in each direction across the Potomac River and add two new Express Lanes in each direction for approximately three miles between the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia to the vicinity of River Road in Maryland. New bicycle and pedestrian access will connect trails on both sides of the Potomac River. The project is being designed predominantly within the footprint of the existing bridge and right-of-way to minimize impact to travelers, the environment, and surrounding communities. No homes or businesses are expected to require relocation.
“This is once-in-a-generation project that will improve accessibility throughout the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This is a milestone in regional cooperation. We in Virginia look forward to working hand-in-hand with Maryland to deliver this transformative transportation solution.”
Virginia announced plans earlier this year to leverage its existing public-private partnership with Transurban, the operator of the 495 Express Lanes, to extend the lanes approximately two miles north toward the American Legion Bridge and add new connections at the Dulles Toll Road and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Construction on what is known as “Project Next” could begin as early as 2021.
Maryland’s Board of Public Works has approved advancing a bold and innovative Traffic Relief Plan that includes improvements to I-270 and I-495. It is the largest public-private partnership of its kind in the world.
“Our transportation network cannot function without fixing the American Legion Bridge, I-495 and I-270,” said Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn. “Without these improvements, our horrendous congestion will only get worse. I commend Governors Hogan and Northam for reaching this historic agreement that will have lasting benefits for our region for decades to come.”
The new American Legion Bridge will be delivered in coordination with these other projects and will leverage private capital through public-private partnerships to reduce the need for public funding and shift key traffic and construction risks to the private sector.
The states have agreed to a bi-state funding plan to accelerate the delivery of these critical improvements, including all of the infrastructure needed for connections between George Washington Parkway and MD-190/River Road.
Maryland will cover 79 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the southbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from MD-190/River Road to the George Washington Parkway.
Virginia will cover 21 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the northbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from the George Washington Parkway to MD-190/River Road.
Texas man charged with cyberstalking, making interstate threats
An Odessa, Texas man, who had an online relationship with a juvenile female in the Western District of Virginia, has been indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville and charged with cyberstalking and making interstate threats to the girl’s family following her suicide. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and David W. Archey, FBI Special Agent in Charge for the Richmond Division, made the announcement today following the defendant’s arrest in Texas.
Adrian Raul O’Dell, 19, was charged in a sealed indictment on October 15, 2019, and arrested this week in Texas. The grand jury has charged O’Dell with three counts of cyberstalking and two counts of making interstate threats.
“Cyberstalking and communicating threats through social media are serious federal crimes and prosecuting them is a priority of this office,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “I am grateful for the hard work of the FBI and the Warren County Sheriff’s office in identifying this defendant and bringing him to justice.”
“The FBI takes online threats very seriously, and will work with our law enforcement partners to ensure matters are addressed swiftly and appropriately,” SAC Archey said today. “This case is important to us because a young girl’s family, while still mourning her death, was re-victimized with the messages sent by the accused. We are grateful for the assistance of the FBI El Paso Division’s Midland Resident Agency and the United States Attorney’s Office during the course of this investigation.”
According to the indictment, between September 2017 and around March 2018, O’Dell had an online relationship with a 16-year girl who lived in Linden, Virginia. In May 2018, following an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that O’Dell’s victim died by suicide in a wooded area near her home.
The indictment alleges that from June 2018 through June 2019, O’Dell, using a variety of false email and online personas, took credit for her suicide. The defendant then sent threatening and intimidating messages to her family members and friends that placed them in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily harm. In addition, these messages attempted to cause friends and family members substantial emotional distress. The defendant sent certain of these messages in violation of a protective order.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Kate Rumsey is prosecuting the case for the United States.
A grand jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.