Probe Delays Release of Va. Senator Attack Report

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A state police investigation has delayed the public release of a report on an attack on a Virginia state senator by his son.

    The Office of the Inspector General investigated what happened to Austin "Gus'' Deeds, 24, who attacked his father, Sen. Creigh Deeds, with a knife on Nov. 19, 2013, at their rural homestead in Bath County and then killed himself. The younger Deeds had been released the previous day from an emergency custody order because a psychiatric bed could not be found for him.

    Virginia State Police requested that the report, which was completed March 10, be withheld from the public until the agency completes an investigation and prosecutors determine whether to file criminal charges, Inspector General Michael Morehart told The Daily Progress.

    Morehart said he could not provide legal justification for withholding the report.

    "There is no citation in the code on that. It's professional judgment,'' he said.

    State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told the newspaper in an email that the agency asked Morehart to withhold the report from the public until Bath County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Singleton reviewed the findings of the criminal investigation.

    Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said the report is a public record and should be made public regardless of whether state police asked for it to be withheld.

    Morehart said he feared releasing the report could affect the state police investigation.

    "You don't want to obstruct justice and somehow hamper a criminal investigation,'' he said.

    Morehart said his office and state police coordinated their efforts in the Deeds case to avoid duplication. He said he was determined not to let public interest thwart an intentionally deliberate process.

    "We're held to a very high standard,'' he said. "That's why this takes a lot of time.''

    Creigh Deeds said authorities' efforts are focused on the day "the system failed'' his son.

    "They were not looking at the actions of either my son or me,'' the senator said.

    "I remain convinced that the situation could have been prevented, but it wasn't,'' he said.

    A state investigator who examined the events leading up to the attack resigned, complaining that his superiors interfered with his work and made him tone down his report, according to his letter of resignation dated March 1.

    G. Douglas Bevelacqua, director of the inspector general's Division of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Division, said his report had been subject to revisions to tone down his findings.

    The newspaper said Morehart on Monday denied its open records request for copies of his correspondence with Bevelacqua, citing exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act for investigative material and personnel matters.

    "(I've got) nothing to hide,'' Morehart told the newspaper Tuesday. "No findings of fact were removed from that report.''

    Morehart said he changed the language in Bevelacqua's report to state that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services had yet to "fully implement'' Bevelacqua's recommendations.

    "Most of (the changes) were 'happy' to `glad,''' Morehart said. "How is a reader going to know what 'meaningful' means?''

    Creigh Deeds said Morehart assured him that all of Bevelacqua's findings would be included in the final report.