As promised, here is my attempt to convince you to vote for anybody other than Jim Camblos for commonwealth’s attorney. When I write about political races from my own partisan perspective, I try to stick to the basic issues, acknowledge that it’s simply my opinion, and recognize the merits of other candidates. This is not the case with Camblos.
There is no argument for returning Camblos to his office. A fifth term is far too many. My differences with him are not partisan, they’re not even political. He’s simply grossly incompetent and, I think, a bad man. What weighs especially heavily on my mind is the story of Edward Deane, the man whose wife and two granddaughters were killed in a terrible accident on 29 N. nine years ago, an accident in which the perpetrator was not given so much as a speeding ticket. Ed Deane is a long-time family friend. The abuse that he suffered at the hands of Jim Camblos at such a time is unconscionable. Camblos’ behavior towards Deane speaks volumes about his character.
Below I list seven stories of the lowlights of Camblos’ career, followed by five reasons why I want you to vote against Jim Camblos. Vote for nobody. Vote for Mickey Mouse. Vote for his opponent, Denise Lunsford. I don’t care who you vote for, but don’t vote for Jim Camblos.
Camblos’ Greatest Hits
Getting Away with Murder
On September 22, 1998, three friends robbed the Shell station on Ivy Road, murdering clerk Osama Hassan for $100.03. The murder was committed by a mentally retarded boy after being forced to do so by his friend Dylan Tyree. All three were charged with the man’s murder.
On May 8, 2001, Judge Paul Peatross was forced to drop all charges against Tyree. The state appeals court found that Jim Camblos’ had improperly handled the case, making much of the evidence inadmissible. No evidence, no conviction. The other two were convicted easily. Tyree remains free to this day.
Getting Away with Manslaughter
In June of 1998 there was a terrible car 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. Roth skidded 503 feet before colliding with Deane’s car and knocking it clear across the grassy median. She pushed the car for another 196 feet before the family’s car landed upside down in the northbound lane and was hit by another car. (See the police accident reconstruction form for details.) 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. Camblos said it was because it was only an accident, not rising to the level of a crime, but it was just a month ago that he charged a truck driver with involuntary manslaughter for killing a couple in a similar accident, making clear that accidents are not immune from prosecution.
Camblos’ office has routinely described the insect in question as unnaturally huge, a freak of nature, but police photos of the scene (as printed in The Hook on September 27) reveal a tiny bug perhaps the size of a firefly. Camblos refuses to discuss the case. Crime Victims United of Virginia provides a moving videotaped interview with widower Edward Deane in which he recounts the terrible incident. Deane had, horrifyingly, come across the accident scene while driving home.
Roth received a speeding ticket while driving in the same spot just two weeks later.
According to an affidavit filed by police officer Karl Mansoor, Camblos developed an antagonistic view towards the widower Deane. Camblos instructed a police officer to shoot Deane. Other officers were instructed to follow Deane and, if he attempted to leave flowers to the site of his family’s death, find a reason to arrest him. Camblos has recently taken to claiming that Deane had threatened his family and was actually arrested for doing so but, in fact, no such threat was ever documented and no such arrest was ever made.
Getting Away with Manslaughter…Again
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.
The Strange Story of Deputy Shiflett
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 proceeded to arrest two suspects that fit his description. As it turned out, he’d probably 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. Camblos was successful in blocking the investigation — no charges were ever filed, and it never emerged what had happened.
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.
In February of 2006, four students were arrested on charges of planning a violent attack on a pair of area high schools. A triumphant press conference was held, announcing that many deaths had been avoided. It quickly emerged that the students had been planning no such thing. In response to criticism from the press, Jim Camblos announced that there was a gag order on the media, telling them that they were prohibited from discussing the case at all, under “court order.” Again, it quickly emerged that he’d completely made that up. By mid-summer, Camblos was being universally condemned for his handling of the case. After the youngest of the kids was found not guilty (he didn’t even know two of the kids with whom he was charged with conspiring), Camblos refused to admit any fault, saying “we were disappointed with the decision, but the system works,” a study in contradiction.
Joining the Thin Blue Line
Police officer Karl Mansoor filed an affidavit with area elected officials when Jim Camblos nominated himself for a judgeship last year, in which he related the following alarming account. On September 19, 1998, an Albemarle County police officer accidentally shot at a man by the unfortunate name of Luckey Cash. The officer confessed to coworkers that he was at fault. Camblos recommended that the officer be charged with reckless use of a firearm. Chief Miller was concerned that this could look bad, so he asked Camblos to reconsider. Camblos, in response, instructed the investigating detectives to start their investigation over again. The detectives were told to “be careful” about what evidence appeared in the report, and that they should not mention Camblos’ prior recommendation. This time the detectives concluded that the officer was not at fault. On the witness stand, the officer said he was defending the life of a fellow officer. Camblos never brought charges against the officer.
Five Reasons to Vote Against Jim Camblos
- Camblos is utterly incompetent. See the prior seven stories.
- Camblos is a gun-grabber. Camblos wants to ban the discharge of firearms within 200 yards of any house — including your own — anywhere in Albemarle County. He told the board that he’s simply shocked that no such law already exists. The proposal resulted from the “Bentivar cat-killer case,” in which a man shot his neighbor’s cat. Since shooting your neighbor’s cat is already illegal — as is discharging a firearm within a reasonable 50 feet of a house or road — it’s not clear what good this new law would do. I don’t care what laws are passed — I’ll use my firearms on my property, and there’s not a damned thing Jim Camblos can do about it.
- Camblos is a bully. If you think I’m a self-important buffoon, you’ve never met Jim Camblos. (I once attended a community meeting of north downtown residents that he completely took over, loudly and repeatedly insisting that we were all too ignorant to have any input at all into the future of north downtown.) He is constitutionally incapable of admitting fault, no matter how clearly he’s at fault for literally letting somebody get away with murder. The man is a black hole of empathy. He threatens those with whom he disagrees and bullies whomever he must to get his way. It’s hard to think of a worse person to work with crime victims.
- Sixteen years isn’t enough? Camblos has been in office for a whopping four terms, and he wants yet another one — two decades, in total. That’s an enormous amount of time to spend in office, especially for a constitutional office, doubly so for something as demanding as commonwealth’s attorney.
- I’m screwed if he’s reelected. Seriously. If I have to go before a judge in Albemarle County in the next four years, I’m toast. If he’ll charge random middle schoolers with conspiracy to blow up schools, I wouldn’t need but a parking ticket to find myself tossed in a suicide watch cell and charged with treason. Of course, that may be a reason for some of you to to vote for him.
If you withhold your vote from Jim Camblos, you’ve just taken away one vote from him. If you vote for Denise Lunsford, you’ve just taken away two from him. Do the math, cast your vote, and let’s see Jim Camblos removed from office.