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A candidate committed to justice / October 24, 2013

Dear Viewpoint:

My name is Cassie Ragsdale. I grew up in Halifax County and have worked here for the last fifteen years. I remember first meeting Tracy Quackenbush Martin back in 1998 when I was working as a domestic violence investigator at the sheriff’s office. Since then our paths have crossed frequently and I have had the opportunity to know her both personally and professionally. Throughout this time, I have found her to be a person with integrity who is both loyal and committed to justice.

Over the course of several years, I have observed Tracy Quackenbush Martin argue cases in circuit court. My impression of Tracy is that of a heavyweight fighter. When she steps into the courtroom she is prepared for battle and is willing to go round after round on behalf of her client. She will fight to the end — fairly and squarely.

Last week during the candidate’s forum Mike Freshour made the statement, “My morals have not changed since day one.” That comment reminded me of a Halifax County case that gained state-wide notoriety for all the wrong reasons. The Richmond Times Dispatch on March 15, 2007 published an article entitled, “Halifax office taken off case: Defendant’s attorney says prosecutor made threatening comments.” The article can be located in the archives section of the newspaper.

The article indicates that according to a motion filed with the court, Freshour, then Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, stated that even if the defendant were not convicted, that Freshour was going to “get” the defendant for something. Freshour also threatened to put out the word that the defendant was a snitch and indicated he should be dead. Along with the comments, Freshour made a hand gesture resembling an aimed gun and stated, “Right between the eyes,” and made a sound indicating the firing of a gun.

According to the article, Freshour’s response to the motion was that whatever statements he made were just a joke. He also stated that he was being sarcastic when he said that if the defendant were acquitted, he would put the word out that defendant was a snitch and that someone should shoot the defendant “so we won’t have to worry about it.” According to the article, Freshour said he did not specifically recall making a hand gesture resembling a gun and saying the defendant should be shot between the eyes, but he admitted he could have said it. A Halifax County judge heard the motion and ruled that the Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office be removed from the case.

Either Freshour meant the things he said or he was joking. Regardless, those statements display a disturbing lack of judgment on the behalf of a person who wields so much power over the lives of citizens in this county. If Freshour is maintaining that he is the same person he was back in 2007, then voters should be all the more concerned.

Also, Halifax also deserves a Commonwealth’s Attorney who is fiscally responsible. Time is money. What a waste of money for both the tax payers of Halifax County, as well as for the victims and witnesses involved in a case, for everyone to come to court only to have their cases rescheduled. While some continuances may be necessary and inevitable, excessive continuances are a problem in Halifax County. Those people who have not been directly touched by crime only have to ask their friends and neighbors, to know this is true. As Quackenbush Martin pointed out during the forum, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is in the best position to fix this problem. Defendants and their attorneys can’t be the solution to the problem because delayed cases are almost always a benefit to a defendant. Over time witnesses are more likely to forget what happened or to move away. Over time there is a greater chance that evidence may be misplaced. Freshour has asked us to give him credit for his years of experience as Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, and for this last year as interim Commonwealth’s Attorney, but what is that experience worth if it only shows that he is either unwilling or unable to fix the problem.

As a defense attorney who runs her own private practice, Quackenbush Martin has had to account for her expenses. If she had not been running a financially tight ship for more than a decade, she would have certainly gone out of business. We need that kind of financial accountability. Quackenbush Martin knows the value of money. Freshour, on the other hand, is playing with our money. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I believe Tracy Quackenbush Martin will handle our tax dollars as carefully if not more carefully than she has her own finances in private practice. Moreover, this type of responsibility is good for cases. I am not arguing for financial responsibility at the expense of the right outcomes in criminal cases. The fact is prosecutors should be making sure they have prepared their cases and they have complied with all their obligations in advance of trial because that is good for the case; because it helps the system to move toward justice in a timely fashion. Saving our taxpayers wasted money is just an added benefit.

Halifax deserves better. Halifax can do better.

Please come out and vote Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Every vote is important! Vote for Tracy Quackenbush Martin. A vote for Quackenbush Martin is a vote for justice, equality, fairness, toughness, sound judgment, strong morals, an excellent work ethic, and integrity.

Cassondrus Ragsdale, Halifax County resident

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