Dangerous sign vigilantes go free!

After three months of threatening a Purcellville couple with criminal prosecution (one count each of trespass and larceny) for having removed illegal signs from the public roadways, Loudoun’s fearless crime-fighting very Republican commonwealth’s attorney Jim Plowman has dropped the charges.

On August 23, the case against George Kingsley and Karen Nutt was nolle prosse’d—which is what a prosecutor commonly does before a trial begins when he knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Plowman, for whom the phrase “prosecutorial misconduct” may have been invented, has a colorful history of using the power of his office to threaten, harass, and intimidate people he doesn’t like, especially if it will (a) get him publicity or (b) score points with the various factions of the Loudoun GOP machine, especially the corrupt-developer-property-“rights” faction (Dale Polen Myers, Randy Minchew, et al.) or the crazy-religious-right faction (Michael Farris et al.).

Among other stunts, Plowman brought criminal charges, just before a GOP primary, against a state senate candidate who was running against the candidate he was working for—then dropped the charges later on.

He also brought utterly baseless child-pornography charges against a well-respected middle school assistant principal whose life was consequently nearly ruined by Plowman. The jury, however, took about two nanoseconds to acquit, since Plowman himself had basically acknowledged that the case was meritless; that the “possession” of “pornography” consisted solely of a student’s cell-phone “sexting” photo that the assistant principal had confiscated while investigating the matter himself; and that Plowman himself admitted he was pressing the charges only because he felt the Loudoun County Public Schools had been too slow to report “other” suspected cases of child endangerment.

Plowman’s office has also been remarkably understanding in dismissing traffic offenses against local Republican officials, notably traffic expert and county supervisor “Ken” Reid (R-Leesburg).

As we all fondly recall, one of the very first acts of our new all-Republican Board of Supervisors upon taking office in January was to throw a bone to the real-estate industry that was so generous to them and eliminate the very successful volunteer program that removed illegal signs from the roadways. Signs on the roadways are always illegal in Virginia. But the real-estate industry seems to believe it can’t live without breaking the law, and Plowman obviously saw a chance to jump on the bandwagon on the side of the very-GOP-friendly law breakers by bringing charges against the “sign vigilantes,” as Supervisor Reid has repeatedly called them in public (he calls them “sign Nazis” in private).

So anyway, a couple of desperado sign vigilantes are going free this time—merely having had their lives ruined for three months and having spent several grand in legal fees.

The moral of the story once again is that if you’re a prosecutor without a conscience, but a finely honed political sense, you don’t even need to have a case to score points with your allies, and intimidate your enemies. So, attention sign cleaner uppers: Plowman may not have a case against you, but he still can make your life miserable whenever he feels like it.

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