A father facing criminal prosecution for a tweet accusing a far-left education activist of “grooming” got a reprieve Thursday when prosecutors told the judge they would not seek to move forward.
“After a review of the facts and evidence for the four claims brought by Mr. [Jorge] Torrico, the Commonwealth does not believe there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the above-mentioned charges,” Fairfax County, Virginia, assistant prosecutor Paul Vitale wrote in a court filing.
The Daily Wire reported on Tuesday that Harry Jackson, a black dad with a child who attends a prestigious magnet school who opposed far-left activists’ quest to abolish the school’s admissions exam in the name of “equity,” was facing four misdemeanors after Torrico, who wanted the test abolished, filed complaints against him.
Jackson fired off a tweet accusing Torrico of “grooming” behavior after Torrico attended an online PTSA meeting for the school, where he does not have a child, and interacted with a student leader.
Criminal charges for defamation are exceedingly rare in America, where purported defamation is almost always a civil matter. The threat of criminal sanctions has been hanging over Jackson’s head since a magistrate issued the first two of four criminal summons on September 22, 2021.
On February 23, 2022, Jackson appeared in court and his lawyer, Marina Medvin, asked for the charges to be dismissed, calling them unconstitutional. The Fairfax prosecutor’s office did not agree, instead asking for a postponement so it could “investigate,” Medvin said in court documents.
The top prosecutor in Fairfax is Steve Descano, a progressive who narrowly won his primary election with the help of funding from George Soros and who has pledged not to prosecute minor crimes that “disproportionately hurt people of color,” and who routinely declines to pursue crimes he deems minor.
“It appears that the Commonwealth’s Attorney had done nothing during the five months that this case was pending and needed more time. The Commonwealth’s continuance request was granted over Defendant’s objection,” Medvin wrote.
On March 14, two more criminal summons were issued by a magistrate following more complaints from Torrico. Torrico noted that Jackson was suing the school system over the admissions change — in other words, calling attention to the authorities that he was on the opposite side of Fairfax Democrats in a matter of public controversy.
On April 1, Medvin again filed to have the case thrown out as the unconstitutional persecution of protected speech.
The summons said Jackson’s words could break the law by being insults that “tend to violence and breach of the peace,” but there was nothing about calling an activist’s behavior grooming that was a call for violence, she said. The summons invoked an obscure law enacted in 1950 making it illegal to impugn the chastity of a woman.
In a filing Thursday, Descano’s office moved to “nolle pros” the case, which means it is not seeking to move forward, but could re-file the charges. Medvin said that’s not enough.
“The government’s request is a constitutional copout. By seeking to nolle prosequi instead of joining Defendant in his Motion to Dismiss and securing dismissal on constitutional grounds, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is opening the door to continued harassment of Harry Jackson and any other individual whom the Complainant and others like him find offensive,” she wrote in a court filing in response. “The Defendant is seeking enforcement of his constitutional right to free speech. The Defendant is seeking dismissal with prejudice, a true closure in a criminal case.”
Descano’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Daily Wire.
As The Daily Wire noted that last month, Descano’s office granted a “nolle pros” to a woman who allegedly violently abused an infant. On March 18, the office told the judge it would not pursue the woman because “there are no ACA’s [prosecutors] available for a four-day jury trial beginning on March 21, 2022.”
Descano noted that the nolle pros meant that the case could be brought again, and said it would be.
Luke Rosiak is the author of the book Race To the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.
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