Jim Camblos’ Greatest Hits

As promised.

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.

15 thoughts on “Jim Camblos’ Greatest Hits”

  1. What about the feud between Judge Peatross and Camblos in 2004? At one point, Camblos’s office could not try cases before the judge. But Peatross is the presiding judge for Albemarle! The public defender and Camblos had teamed up to try to get Peatross kicked off the bench. Seems he was rude and peremptory. A commission agreed, but the Va. Supreme Court disagreed and ruled in favor of Peatross.

    Maybe Camblos ginned it all up and got the public defender over excited. I don’t know.

  2. I gotta say that I thought the recent fusillade of criticism directed at Camblos was a little overheated, but that is a pretty damning list that you put together. I wonder if there are satisfactory explanations for some or all of them. If not, he really does need to go.

  3. The voters have spoken. They like Camblos, Bell, Goode, Allen, and Bush – birds of a feather.

  4. UberXY,

    Actually, Albemarle County went for John Kerry and Al Weed in 2004. In 2005 Albermarle went for the straight state-wide Democratic ticket; Kaine, Creigh Deeds and Leslie Byrne. Rob Bell did not have serious opposition and the last time that Jim Camblos ran he had no opposition at all.

    So I think that the facts say otherwise. The voters of Albemarle County do not like those ‘Birds of a Feather’ and Albemarle is becoming reliably Democratic. 6 years ago this was not the case and Albemarle was GOP country but things have changed a lot.

  5. Who votes for Camblos? (Who should we be forwarding this link to–I live in the city.)

  6. I wonder if there are satisfactory explanations for some or all of them. If not, he really does need to go.

    I’m glad you mention that. My accounts are taken from the media — I spent some quality time with Lexis Nexis last night confirming these recollections and, when necessary, modifying what I’d intended to write to match the press. (For example, in the Deane case, I recalled Roth having been the one to cross the median to hit Deane. I was mighty surprised to read that, apparently, that’s not so.) So while all of the information I’ve presented here to the best of my ability, relying on media accounts for the information, perhaps Mr. Camblos is such a sucker for punishment that he simply fails to correct egregious errors on the part of the media for years at a time. :)

  7. I’m told that Jim Camblos is going to be on WINA tomorrow but not, oddly, on Coy Barefoot’s show. Instead he’ll be on the morning show with Jane and Jay, from 9:30am-10:00am. (I’m guessing he’s smarting over the universal agreement of Coy’s guests and callers that he’s mishandled this case. Jane and Jay’s show isn’t particularly political, so they haven’t gone into depth about Camblos’ transgressions.)

    Anybody who is interested in asking some tough questions of Camblos should call in (977-1070). Don’t let him get away with saying a) that he is obliged to give these kids such serious charges b) that people are angry after every case so your concerns don’t matter or c) that he’s disappointed about the ruling, but “the system works.” Horsefeathers.

  8. Not to pile on or anything, but my friend who occasionally has to deal with him profesionally says he’s pretty much a pompous jerk.

  9. Albemarle is becoming reliably Democratic This is true of the whole of the county but the White Hall and Rivanna went for republicans in the last BOS for those areas. White Hall is very GOP.

    This trend started when Allen lost to Senator Robb in Albemarle county but won the state.

  10. This is a very informative post. Thanks Waldo! I wonder if other nearby Commonwealth Attorney’s have similar examples of bungling or if Camblos performance is truly atypical, as I would hope is the case.

  11. That’s a great question, Gail. The only other commonwealth’s attorney who I’ve had cause to pay mind to is Charlottesville’s, and if he’s ever bungled a case, I haven’t noticed it. (Not that my noticing it is any kind of a reasonable indicator. :) Perhaps some cvillenews.com readers from the surrounding counties can speak for their own commonwealth’s attorneys?

  12. White Hall and Rivanna went for republicans in the last BOS for those areas

    Re White Hall district: I don’t have the figures in front of me, but my memory is that it has been voting close to 50-50 in the major races. The BOS election is not a very good indicator of party sentiment. Walter Perkins used to run as an independent, and although David Wyant ran as a Republican his victory over Eric Strucko probably as much to do with the fact that everyone in the Crozet-White Hall area knows him than with party identification.

  13. You left out the best one, well I guess it is actually the worst one. Several years ago maybe 7-8 three guys robbed the shell station on Ivy Road and killed the clerk. They City PD found the gun but the judge ruled agaist camblos and excluded it from trial. Well, Virginia law had just been changed to allow an appeal by the prosecutor for situations just like this. Not to worry JC was on the case. Well honest to goodness and bless his heart he forgot to file the appeal ( seriously he just forgot to do the paper work) and when it came time for trial the killer walked. Only one of the 3 robbers went to prison and he confessed. Albemarle, you can do better

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