Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner has threatened to withhold funding for the school system unless he releases a report from the law firm he commissioned to investigate the system’s handling of two sexual assaults at two county high schools involving a then 14-year-old boy.
Now 15, the boy was sentenced to supervised probation in a juvenile detention center after a May 28 assault at Stone Bridge High School and an October 6 assault at Broad Run High School.
Last Friday, Kershner – a partner at the Leesburg-based law firm Simms-Showers since 2013 – joined General Counsel William Mann at the defense table and successfully argued for the juvenile court judge to reconsider his decision. of January 12.
Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Chief Judge Pamela Brooks had sentenced the boy to supervised probation but also took the rare step of requiring him to sign up for life. in the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.
After arguments from Kershner, Mann and Jonathan Monroe, Brooks acknowledged that she had erred in her earlier decision and removed the sex offender registry requirement from the provision of the teenager – the juvenile equivalent sentence in adult court.
In court, Kershner said the second assault could have been avoided if the district had resolved its case in the first assault within the 21 days required by law to keep its teenage client in custody.
“After the defendant’s first offence, he was released at the request of the Commonwealth Prosecutor because they were not prepared to resolve the first sexual assault case within 21 days as required by law for detained minors,” Kershner said in a Facebook post. post Saturday morning.
In an interview with WTOP, Kershner said his argument was bolstered by studies that 95% of minors who first sexually assault never reoffend. And he said professionals – including the probation officer in his client’s case – discourage the registration of minors as sex offenders because it has statistically made young people more likely to experience recidivism.
“So, I asked the court to reconsider what they had done,” Kershner said, “because there had been no opportunity to hear evidence — evidence based on statistics.”
Timeline of how the school system deals with aggression examined
The May 28 assault in a girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School was not made public until the victim’s father told the Daily Wire that the same teenager accused of the attack on his daughter was later charged with groping another girl, at Broad Run High School, on October 6.
On October 6, nearly five months after Kershner’s client was released with charges pending in the Stone Bridge assault, he was arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexual assault after allegedly forcing a girl into a unoccupied classroom and groped her at Broad Run High School.
On October 25, Brooks found the teen responsible for one count of forced sodomy and one count of forced fellatio. He and the victim had previously had consensual sex.
About three weeks later, the teenager pleaded “no contest” to the October Broad Run assault. In a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but does not dispute the facts of the prosecution, which generally has the same effect as pleading guilty.
Amid cover-up allegations, on November 5, Loudoun County Public Schools announced that it had hired a law firm to conduct an independent review of the LCPS’s handling of assaults.
Earlier this month, the school system said the report was complete, but the LCPS declined to release it, citing attorney-client privilege and confidentiality concerns.
In his role as an elected supervising member of the Catoctin District, Kershner told OMCP that the LCPS failed the victims by placing the accused – his client – in another school without informing staff and parents of the incident. the current criminal case.
At an upcoming February joint session of the supervisory board and the school board, Kershner said that unless the school system releases the report, their funding could be in jeopardy.
“The LCPS needs to keep our students safe and parents need assurances that the mistakes made by the LCPS and the Commonwealth Attorney will never happen again,” he said. “The Board of Overseers will begin our budget process with LCPS this month, and I will be asking LCPS to release its independent sexual assault report as a condition of funding.”
Perceived conflicts of interest
Earlier in the post, Kershner explained his law firm’s decision to defend his client, despite his role as county supervisor.
“Ethically, it is extremely difficult (and strongly discouraged) for a lawyer to resign from a criminal case,” he said. “The courts usually don’t allow it. We are professionally bound to represent the best interest of our client.
WTOP questioned the incumbent county supervisor about concerns raised by social media commenters about any perceived conflict of interest. Initially, he responded by saying he had not breached solicitor-client privilege in his public comments.
When asked, again, to answer questions about a conflict of interest from social media commentators — in an elected position that funds the school board — Kershner said there was no conflict and that he should recuse himself.
“The only question is whether I should have gotten out of the case because I’m in public office – well, of course not,” he told WTOP. “I mean, there could be instances where it would, but, first of all, I wasn’t the one doing it, it was my company doing it.”
Kershner acknowledges that although his firm, and not him personally, initially handled the case, he has since been involved in litigation on behalf of the 14-year-old.
Asked about the budget tie and the perceived conflict, he said his knowledge of what happened in the district would be a much worse oversight.
“I think the conflict would be if I was silent and said nothing knowing how important chess was,” he said.
Ivy Lyons and Joshua Barlow of WTOP contributed to this report.