Plowman: Sheriff Chapman Made ‘Untrue’ Statement in Court Filing

A declaration by Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman filed in federal court states Loudoun Sheriff Michael Chapman made a “partially untrue” statement to the court in describing a conversation between the two.

Earlier this month, the attorney for Mark McCaffrey, the former Loudoun detective who is suing Chapman and the county government for wrongful termination asked for partial summary judgment, skipping a trial on certain facts of the case and proceeding directly to determining damages. McCaffrey claims he was not re-sworn in as an act of political retaliation—and that that retaliation followed him after he left the Loudoun sheriff’s office.

Chapman’s attorneys argued against that in subsequent court filings, saying the defendants had not had “adequate time for discovery.” They argue federal court procedures prevents them from “being ‘railroaded’ into summary judgment by a ‘premature motion.’”

“Indeed, Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment before Sheriff Chapman has even answered his Complaint,” Chapman’s attorneys wrote.

Chapman argues that McCaffrey’s actions went beyond merely supporting Chapman’s political opponent in the Republican primary with a yard sign and a vote, and that despite his declarations, McCaffrey “publicly expressed his dislike, disapproval, and criticism of Sheriff Chapman” to fellow officers and at least one crime victim’s family. Chapman’s attorneys also argued that as a lead major crimes detective, McCaffrey effectively had significant policymaking authority—a case Chapman must make to be protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity, which allows constitutional officers to fire employees in policymaking positions for political reason.

In a sworn affidavit filed with those arguments, Chapman recounts a meeting with Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman.

“I advised the [commonwealth’s attorney] that if Mr. McCaffrey was good at his job, he should have no problem getting hired locally by the Purcellville Police Department or the Leesburg Police Department, (LPD),” the affidavit reads. “The [commonwealth’s attorney] stated that McCaffrey might have problems getting hired by the LPD because he would have to take a polygraph examination.”

McCaffrey’s response includes a declaration by Plowman, in which he said that was partially untrue. While he did have a meeting with Chapman after he was reelected in 2015—at the Leesburg IHOP—he says he did not make any statements about McCaffrey or a polygraph.

“During that meeting I did express my displeasure that Mr. McCaffrey was not re-sworn because Mr. McCaffrey was the lead detective in one of the most high-profile murder cases in recent County history,” Plowman wrote, referring to the trial of Braulio M. Castillo, who was later convicted of killing his wife and attempting to stage her death to look like a suicide. “I felt his unexplained dismissal could potentially jeopardize the integrity of the trial.”

However, Plowman wrote: “At no time did I suggest that Mr. McCaffrey might have problems getting hired because he had to take a polygraph. I would have no reason to suggest that, and would have no reason to believe that Mr. McCaffrey would have any issue with polygraphs or any results therefrom.”

Another declaration filed alongside that response adds a second former high-ranking officer to the people filing statements for the plaintiffs. According to his declaration, Marc Caminiti, a 27-year-veteran of the sheriff’s office, recently retired as a captain and second-in-command of the Criminal Investigations Division. His declaration speaks to the control the county government exercises over the sheriff’s purse strings, and adds his voice to those testifying to McCaffrey’s good character. McCaffrey enjoyed consistent glowing performance reviews during his time in Loudoun, according to documents filed in the case.

In early September, a declaration from former Lt. Col. Chris Harmison was also filed in support of McCaffrey’s case. Harmison was one of two chief deputies in the department, second in command to Chapman, and was not resworn at the same time as McCaffrey. Harmison also argued that McCaffrey did not have a policymaking position and that the county contributes the majority of the sheriff’s funding each year and has authority and responsibility for his employment practices.

The case is scheduled for a hearing Friday in federal district court in Alexandria. Chapman and Plowman have not returned calls requesting comment.

4 thoughts on “Plowman: Sheriff Chapman Made ‘Untrue’ Statement in Court Filing

  • 2017-10-02 at 5:33 pm

    If I understand this article, Plowman said he did not discuss the former detective during a meeting with the Sheriff, and then the article continued with Chapman saying he discussed the former detective with the Sheriff at the meeting. So, which is it? Perhaps it is time to call in the FBI to determine who lied under oath in the federal case. Apparently one of the two did. When you have to question the honesty of a Sheriff and a Commonwealth’s Attorney, then we have a real problem. I don’t know if we can trust either one.

  • 2017-10-03 at 8:30 am

    Any time Plowman opens his mouth, he is lying. But he only believes in prosecuting perjury against those he dislikes. Controvertible evidence that Wayde Byard lied under oath in court wasn’t prosecuted by Plowman’s office. Plowman also lied about why he deleted my comments pointing that out on his FB page. Plowman gives sweetheart deals to defense attorneys who contribute cash to his campaign yet prosecutes silly cases like the one against the VP of a high school dealing with kids’ sexting.

    This case is very simple. Was McCaffrey a policy-making official? If not, his speech is protected outside of work. The claim against the county is a non-issue. It will be interesting to see if the judge determines decides the issue this week or lets the case proceed. Either way, the decision is likely to be appealed. This case will take years to reach a resolution.

  • 2017-10-03 at 10:37 am

    Two more points. The competency of many attorneys in Virginia is appalling. Despite being settled case law, both Julia Judkins in representing the Loudoun BOS/Randall and the attorney for McCaffrey have tried to introduce affidavits at the very beginning of the case. The only facts or evidence that may be considered at this stage are those contained in the original complaint. It appears none of these affidavits were so included and thus cannot be considered. The same court (Eastern District) admonished Judkins just last year on this same issue (see section A of the Analysis) yet the attorneys here repeat the same mistakes again and again. Commonwealth’s Attorney Plowman should supposedly know better than to provide an affidavit supporting McCaffrey at this state but it’s beginning to look like Plowman’s incompetent/ignorant in addition to being unethical. Tax dollars wasted because of incompetence. The only thing the court may consider is McCaffrey’s assertions and it must treat them as true at this stage. If he has a case, the trial continues. If not, it’s over.

    The second point is one that may understandably be lost on the reporters if not explained by the attorneys. Certainly, Chair Randall and her attorneys don’t understand qualified immunity.

    1. Qualified immunity does not allow any official to break the law. It simply says that plaintiffs may not recover damages if an official (1) acted against the normal gov’t policy and (2) violated your rights if and only if the official couldn’t know such actions were illegal. This type of liability is known as “personal” or “individual” liability in that the acts don’t have to be condoned by the gov’t to be illegal. It only covers damages and not a person’s constitutional rights. Thus, if McCaffrey wins, even if qualified immunity were awarded to Chapman and no damages awareded, McCaffrey could force LCSO to reinstate him. He would have a right to retain his employment while speaking outside of work.

    2. However, qualified immunity will not apply in this case. Either McCaffrey was a policy-making official and could be released or he did not make policy and his speech was protected. If the latter is true, a sheriff is on notice that such a release is unconstitutional. Thus, qualified immunity could not be invoked since he should have known his acts were illegal.

    3. The second way that McCaffrey could win is via “official capacity”. This means that the gov’t official who violated his rights didn’t go “rogue” but acted consistent with the government body’s policy. It doesn’t matter if the official could not have known his acts were illegal. If the acts violate the Constitution, the plaintiff wins. This appears to be the case here. As the final decision maker in the LCSO, it was Chapman who didn’t renew McCaffrey’s tenure. Chapman asserts he still possess the right to release policy-making officials for any reason (this is true). However, plaintiffs may not recover any damages (e.g. back pay) for official capacity violations by state officials since the 11th Amd immunizes States. This is why McCaffrey’s lawyer tried to bring Loudoun County into the case. Counties do not have 11th Amd immunity but Virginia constitutional officers such as the sheriff do. McCaffrey could win and be reinstated but recover no damages under “official capacity” liability.

    In sum, if McCaffrey is a “policy-making” official, he will win against Chapman on both on official capacity and individual capacity basis. He will also win damages. If McCaffrey is not a policy-making official, he loses.

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