Home 2023 Elections Video: “Arlington Committee of 100” Commonwealth’s Attorney Forum with Incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti...

Video: “Arlington Committee of 100” Commonwealth’s Attorney Forum with Incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Challenger Josh Katcher

Katcher: "I became a prosecutor because I wanted to seek justice for victims, and that is not currently happening here in Arlington." Dehghani-Tafti: "My campaign isn't based on a cute slogan but on actual work and actual results"


See below for video of and highlights from last night’s “Arlington Committee of 100” Commonwealth’s Attorney forum (which was intense and heated at times), with the two Democratic candidates – incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and challenger Josh Katcher – responding to questions. The Democratic primary is on June 20. Also, to read the in-depth Blue Virginia interviews with these two candidates, see here for Josh Katcher and here for Parisa Dehghani-Tafti.

  • Katcher argued that “we are failing to accomplish real reform and real justice in our community.” He specifically said that Dehghani-Tafti “has claimed that she has…started to address racial disparities in the justice system, but there is no proof…[and] no report.” Katcher also argued that “she’s taking credit for someone else’s work” on a mental health docket and expanding drug courts. Etc.
  • Dehghani-Tafti asked Katcher, “you were working in an office that prosecuted hundreds of possession of marijuana cases every year, disproportionately black people; an office that sought the death penalty whenever it could; asked for cash bail daily; and had only four people in drug court at the end of 2019; and opposed voting rights restoration; and took the position that to prosecute pregnant people if abortion is criminalized in Virginia, it would do it. You worked for that office, you campaigned for that administration, and on the eve of the 2019 election, you said that that office was a shining example of progressive prosecution and you should vote for more of that.”
  • Dehghani-Tafti was asked about her response to this tragic case, in which “Rose Kehoe, the mother of Braylon Meade, would have wanted to see the 17-year-old who killed her son while driving drunk last November tried as an adult.” Katcher responded that it would be “irresponsible for me” to “engage in a discussion” about a specific case. In general, he talked about the possibility of a “transfer” and/or a “blended sentence,” in which a juvenile might receive a juvenile-related sentence followed by an adult sentence. Dehgani-Tafti’s responded that “just because you want to transfer a case doesn’t mean that it gets transferred; there has to be a hearing…this case did not have [the necessary elements and conditions].” She added:  “When I think about what happened to Braylon, I remember when my own son was born…my husband and I would watch over him at night, watching him breathe, just to make sure he wouldn’t stop breathing…The idea of having a son who is about to launch and become the adult that you had always hoped that they would be and then having them ripped from you is something that is horrifying beyond words and I can understand why a parent would want to see retribution. Our job as Commonwealth’s Attorney is to be sensitive to that, but also to follow the law… I don’t think that children should be tried as adults, but I also take every case seriously and consider it for the value of what it is. There is nothing that could have been done in terms of the legal system because the only just thing is to bring Braylon back.”
  • In response to a question about carjackings, Dehghani-Tafti talked about how the carjackings started in late 2020/early 2021, how she’s worked with a regional task force and the Arlington police on this problem and “prosecuting them appropriately.” Katcher argued that there’s “rising crime in Arlington,” and said it’s “frustrating” to be attacked as using “right-wing talking points” when he talks about this issue. Earlier in the debate, Katcher also mentioned the bank robbery on Tuesday at Wells Fargo in Clarendon.
  • In general – and not surprisingly – Katcher strongly criticized Dehghani-Tafti’s record, while Dehghani-Tafti strongly defended it. For instance, on the issue of the Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office not being fully staffed, Dehghani-Tafti argued that this is a national issue, nothing specifically to do with Arlington, and not even specific to prosecution. Katcher responded, “despite the ‘great resignation’ being trotted out as the excuse for why people are leaving, that is completely not correct…. at least five of the attorneys who have left said they will come back provided there’s a change in management.” Dehghani-Tafti then retorted, “I’d like to just point out that of the 13 months that my opponent is talking about, he was a manager for 8 of those.” Katcher denied/rebutted that.
  • In his closing statement, Katcher said “I became a prosecutor because I wanted to seek justice for victims, and that is not currently happening here in Arlington. It’s not happening because we have a capacity issue in our office…It’s also happening because we have a Commonwealth’s Attorney who is more focused on the future of the people we are prosecuting than the people we are seeking justice for. But I want to tell you, we can do both. I’ve done both. I’ve engaged in just prosecutions while giving my victims the time and the treatment that they deserve, interacting with them with empathy and making sure that they felt heard…while seeking just and equitable outcomes.”
  • In her closing statement, Dehghani-Tafti said “Over the past four years, my office has led the way for criminal justice reform,” arguing that she “helped turn the tide” and kept the promises she made when she ran in 2019. She added that “in the wrong hands, our progress can be taken away.” She argued that, “just four years ago, my opponent loyally served a C.A. who prosecuted hundreds of marijuana cases every year, sought the death penalty at every turn, asked for cash bail and opposed voting rights restoration…Now, he says he’s a new man and that he supports real reform and real justice, but I still…don’t know what that means…My campaign isn’t based on a cute slogan but on actual work and actual results.”

Sign up for the Blue Virginia weekly newsletter

Previous articleRight-Wing Abortion Bans. Republicans Expelling Democrats. GOP Governor Pardoning MAGA Murderer. We’re Accelerating Dangerously.
Next articleVA House Democratic Caucus on Reconvene Session: MAGA Extremist Have Taken Over