Home Crime Video: Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney La Bravia Jenkins Answers Our Questions on Amicus...

Video: Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney La Bravia Jenkins Answers Our Questions on Amicus Brief, Restoration of Rights to Ex Felons, etc.

"I signed on it because it was the right thing to do...If it was racist then that would mean I'm a racist, and I'm definitely not."

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See below for video of Fredericksburg City Commonwealth’s Attorney La Bravia Jenkins, who has served in that position since 2008 – and who was one of the signatories to the “Amici Curiae brief,” which raised a number of questions/concerns regarding then-Gov. McAuliffe’s approach to restoring ex-felons’ “rights and privileges” – responding to a few of our questions on this topic. Jenkins had expressed interest in commenting on this issue, following criticisms of Arlington/Falls Church and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorneys (Theo Stamos and Ray Morrogh, respectively) for having signed the aforementioned brief.  For Jenkins’ thoughts on all this, check out the video and a partial transcript, including highlights in bold, following the video. Oh, and thanks to La Bravia Jenkins for taking the time to respond to our questions!

  • “My name is La Bravia Jenkins. I’ve been Commonwealth’s Attorney here in Fredericksburg since 2008.”
  • [Question on the context of the June 2016 amicus brief] “The constitution of Virginia says that people who’ve been convicted of felonies cannot vote, cannot sit on a jury. And the code of Virginia says that those people also cannot own or possess firearms. But it does provide that the governor can restore the rights of someone who’s been convicted.”
  • [Question on why she signed the amicus brief] “That amicus brief stated what the law was at the time. I think that in trying to restore the rights of two hundred thousand felons all at once, the governor was taking a shortcut to what’s already been implemented as a law. Each of those cases was to be looked at separately and independently, and that’s what I wanted to see happen. In terms of having felons vote, I think that’s excellent.  I think that when people have finished serving punishment, they should be reintegrated into society if they can be. The other problems, I mean there were a number of problems with with Governor McAuliffe’s proposal to do that and ultimately the Supreme Court of Virginia decided that we were right, that the amicus brief was on point. I signed on it because it was the right thing to do.”
  • [Question on whether she believes the amicus brief was racist, or racially insensitive, in any way] “[McAuliffe] violated the the prescribed method of doing that. And that’s all that amicus brief was; it wasn’t about racism. And I have to tell you not every felon is black or brown or a minority, so to call it racist is just a misnomer. And it sounds a lot like hyperbole. And I just don’t think there’s any place for that in this kind of race. Commonwealth’s attorneys swear to follow the law, they they swear that they will do what the legislature has indicated is right to be done. And so in following the law, we’re doing our jobs – it really isn’t about political favors, it’s not about racism, it really is about sort of following the rules.
  • [Question on whether she thinks that others who signed the amicus brief might have been motivated by racism in any way] “I do not think it was racist to sign that amicus brief, because if it was racist then that would mean I’m a racist, and I’m definitely not. So, no, all of those things that people are saying about that amicus brief being racist, I think are for political gain. And frankly, I am not in this business for political gain. I’m in this business to do the right thing. And so many of the people, including and especially Ray Morrogh and Theo Stamos, we’re there to do the right thing, and as far as I know, we work hard every day to do just that.”
  • [Question about her view of Theo Stamos and Ray Morrogh] “Ray and Theo, because of where their jurisdictions are located, are kind of leaders in my view in the area of criminal justice. Of course, their localities have a lot more money than we do that have far more advantages than we do so they have access to far more programs that we have here in Fredericksburg and I’ve always envied their ability to use new and emerging technologies new and emerging ideas about how to rehabilitate people. Here in Fredericksburg, we have a drug court which has seen some just marvelous successes. And we have a very strong Community Services Board. But really that’s about it. Our Northern Virginia jurisdictions have so many programs that are endorsed by both those Commonwealth attorneys and are doing just really good work with people who need it.”
  • [Question on whether signing the amicus brief was in any way siding with a Republican “agenda”] “It isn’t a Republican and Democratic issue, I think. The issue was purely legal for me. When I signed, I did not sign because I didn’t want people to get their voting rights back.”
  • [Any final thoughts?] “We are the people who enforce the law. And you know, in executing the law, you do a  fair amount of reading it and trying to figure out what it means. And the Constitution is very clear about how you’re supposed to pardon felons…Well I have to tell you that what I know of Theö Stamos and Ray Morrogh, they are just genuinely caring people who want to help when they can. In terms of Theo and Ray, I can’t say enough about what a good job each of them does for their locality.”