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New ‘air of justice’ in Henrico County behind reduced felony charges

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Belle Isle in the middle of the James River provides recovering drug addict Jay Biggers a place to escape, to laugh, and to think about where he has been and what he has in store ahead. But, it is another island, one a little less natural, that truly rejuvenates him.

Biggers spends a lot of his time at the McShin Foundation, a recovery resource that uses Peer-to-Peer Recovery Support Services to help recovering addicts become sober. The 21-year-old Henrico native overdosed on heroin in 2012 after years of abuse.

Biggers’ parents said they were shocked when Henrico Police showed up and searched the home.

“I’m just on the phone trying to get help,” Jay’s mom Marcia Biggers said.

“They wanted to put him in jail,” Jay’s father added. “There was no mention of sickness or disease or recovery or anything.

Henrico Police later charged Biggers with felony possession of heroin. But in court, the prosecutor and judge agreed that jail was not the place for Biggers. The judge agreed to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor, if Biggers completed a drug recovery program at McShin.

“The only thing that could help, and it has, is going into a 12-step program,” Biggers said.

He said the program enabled him to kick his drug habit, something a previous stint locked up on a misdemeanor charge failed to do.

“If anything it fed it, talking to people about it while I was incarcerated,” he recalled. “It kinda glamorized getting high and drunk and partying and stuff.”

Biggers’ opportunity is an example of the way the Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney, Shannon Taylor, urges her prosecutors to do business.

“I think it’s just about being smarter about crime,” Taylor said.

Taylor, a Democrat, became Henrico’s Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2012 after winning a surprise victory to take over an office long held by Republicans. When she won, Taylor said she wanted to review the handling of non-violent crimes and treatment of the mentally ill who are charged with crimes.

“There are other ways we can address the punishment aspect, than just having them incarcerated,” Taylor said in a 2012 interview.

Taylor replaced Republican Wade Kizer who was once described in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article as “determined, methodical, and effective.”

Taylor immediately talked about the need for making the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office more diverse, to better reflect the county’s growing minority population. She would later fire more than a half dozen members of Kizer’s staff.

“I do want the citizens to know that there will be a new ‘air of justice’ in that office,” Taylor told CBS 6 in 2011.

But, along with more diversity, Taylor said she brought a new philosophy to the office regarding the way they handle certain types of crimes. When it comes to pursuing some non-violent felony charges, sometimes, Taylor encourages her prosecutors to reduce the charge.

“I want to be smarter in evaluating what the appropriate consequence is for that individual.” she said. “Perhaps with the appropriate resources they can be that good contributing member of society that we want them to be.”

Is Taylor’s new strategy reflected in court numbers? Does it represent a new “soft on crime” attitude? We poured over data from the State Supreme Court to find out.

11 comments

  • Gary from Goochland

    Sounds like an intelligent approach to me. The voters elected her for a reason. Why try to drum up a faux story with this “soft on crime” ruse? It’s no wonder Catie Beck left.

    • Norma Earls

      Actually, Gary from Goochland, “the voters” didn’t “elect” her. Shannon Taylor won by default w/ only 45% of the votes because of an idiotic move by the opposition that split the vote.

  • Becky

    Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney, Shannon Taylor is headlined
    with the credit for this long-standing Demoratic Agenda?
    It dates back to the Obama/Holder Inaugration in Jan 09?
    It was an Agenda Issue; just not Publically Speaking.

    ,

    • Becky

      Even Dwight Jones was in on the Agenda when he took office same month, same year as Obama in 09. He started his plan for a too small jail from jump street, while expanding his, his friend and family, current
      jail in 2009; before the 2010 jail scandal of his Donors’ Consortium’s
      one and only bid. He didn’t say or explain it, but the plan was No Time for Non-Violent Offenders. Another scandal derailed all contingency planning by the firing of The Exec Team Leader..,
      Sorry, Charlie; Sharon Taylor. Not an original throught, action or deed.

  • tanner

    yes ever since this women took over things have changed.I myself think there are more personal reasons for it but just my opinion.We know shes a democrat and follows the leader but I just wonder,hmmm.Its a shame either way that Henrico under her has become just a extension of the city in more ways then anybody wants

  • Glen

    New “air of justice”? Hilarious. You mean never before has a spoiled, West End punk gotten a break on a serious charge because his Mommy and Daddy hired a good lawyer and footed the bill for rehab? Wow, first time for everything I guess. I wonder what Ms. Taylor and her cadre will do for those with similar charges who don’t have deep pockets and are represented by public defenders.

    Daddy Jay is also pretty funny. “They wanted to put him in jail. There was no mention of sickness or disease or recovery or anything.” Come on, don’t pretend to be so naive. Your son was a criminal and you know very well that putting him in jail was their job. They are neither social workers nor doctors, but cops so please don’t feign indignation. If it weren’t your special boy, you would expect him to be taken right to jail like anyone else.

  • Friendly

    Her “new philosophy” seems to be to bargain things out and get a conviction on something without doing alot of work. She needs to get tougher on crime and go to trial in more cases.

  • gary

    we all know that all agencies around the country got a message from eric holder that stated to arrest and punish whites more then blacks.We all know that obama and eric holder believe that blacks don’t commit more crime they are just punished more.So whats the debate.She is doing what she and the schools are told.Just wait its all going to backfire

  • tustin coles

    didn’t know henrico was so full of crime. oh then agian i live there and it isn’t…i guess somebody at wtvr 6 is mad they didn’t get their speeding ticket overturned and invented a story to drum up a mob against thsi person

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