The first time in my memory that Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos found himself subject to widespread criticism was after the June 1998 accident on Route 29. Louis Deane and her young granddaughters, Renee and Cheyanne, were killed when 19-year-old UVa student Sarah Roth lost control of her car, colliding with Deane’s car and knocking it clear across the grassy median, where it landed upside down in the northbound lane and was hit by another car. Roth blamed the accident on an insect in the car. Camblos announced two weeks later that Roth would not be charged with anything — she didn’t receive so much as a traffic ticket, to say nothing of an involuntary manslaughter charge. The widower, Edward Dean, was angry and confused by Camblos’ decision, as he remains to this day. I have been told that the girl was a close relation of Republican Senator William Roth (R-DE), but I have no means of verifying that.
In April 2002, McIntire School of Commerce Associate Dean Michael Atchison fell asleep at the wheel, ran a stoplight, and struck the car of 29 year old Yu Ching Yeh at 55 MPH. Unlike in the Deane case, Camblos brought charges against Atchison, charging him with involuntary manslaughter. The trial ended as soon as it began once it emerged that Camblos simply hadn’t gotten around to subpoenaing a key witness. The case had to be dropped, and Atchison could not legally be retried.
Then there’s the bizarre 2003-4 story of Deputy Stephen Shifett. He claimed to have been up and shot by a black man, and arrested two suspects that fit his description. As it turned out, he shot himself, for reasons that remain a mystery. In the process, though, a manhunt was launched and Sheriff Ed Robb declared the attack to be a “hate crime.” When the truth came out, Camblos refused to charge Deputy Shiflett with anything, preventing any sort of an investigation from going forward. Camblos said that he simply couldn’t file charges unless Shiflett confessed, and that there was nothing he could do. Camblos got called on his shenanigans by the Progress, who found that he’d never previously had a problem filing charges against people who’d filed false police reports but didn’t confess. In response, Camblos claimed that he’d been investigating it all along. The Progress, dubious, filed a FOIA request for the investigative report, but it was denied. So then Judge Peatross had to intervene after Camblos continued to do nothing, ordering the investigation’s files to be opened to attorneys involved in the case. If it was ever discovered why the hell Shiflett shot himself, that’s news to me. Camblos was successful in blocking the investigation.
Edward and Angela Bourne were driving home to Buckingham County on Route 29 in June of 2005 when they found their car surrounded by six speeding vehicles. The cars forced them off the road, and Angela Bourne was attacked. Her husband defended her, only to be bludgeoned. She tried to help him, but another man restrained her. Eventually their attackers left them, and the couple had to be hospitalized for their injuries. Camblos refused to press charges. The reason, he said, was because the attackers were from Maryland, and extradition requires a felony. Camblos didn’t believe that forcing the Bournes’ car off the road and taking turns beating them qualified as anything more serious than a misdemeanor, apparently figuring that none of the occupants of those six cars would ever cross into Virginia again. The Bournes were angry and confused, and Edward Bourne expressed particular anger with Jim Camblos.
And then, of course, we have the most recent smoke bomb trial, in which the charges themselves turned out to be grossly exaggerated, and we also saw Camblos lie to the press, telling them that they were subject to a gag order and threatening to go after any publication that provided details about the case.
And all of that is just what comes to mind most readily. I vaguely recall some other cases — charging the wrong guy in that Trophy Chase murder, something about a rape case — that I can’t remember well enough to look into. I’d certainly welcome any recollections about other cases that he’s made a hash of or, of course, any corrections to what I’ve written here.