Libertarians call for prosecutor's ouster

Marsha Garst, the commonwealth's attorney who raided the office of the James Madison University student newspaper, the Breeze, on April 16 and threatened to take all of its computers and equipment, essentially shutting it down, has been denounced by the Libertarian Party of Virginia, which calls for her resignation.

"This is absolutely chilling," said Bill Wood, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia in a release. He compares the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County prosecutor's actions to those of the former Soviet Union. "Based on her actions, she is unfit for public office," he says. " Any government official who violates the Bill of Rights should be removed and prosecuted."

Garst came in with a search warrant and police officers and demanded unpublished photographs of the April 10 Springfest riot, and took more than 900 photos.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tells the Breeze he doesn't believe the raid is a First Amendment issue and that he supports Garst's actions. “I support any and all legal means to gather information to build a case against people who allegedly harmed or intended to harm law enforcement officers,” Cuccinelli says in a statement.

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Additionally, although probably not thought of when the Chairman of the LPVA barfed up this statement was that Marsha acted pursuant to a search warrant signed by a Circuit Court judge. It's like not Marsha's fault that he was unaware of a federal statute which might have stood for the proposition that such a warrant should not have been signed.


I've got to tell you, it's totally reasonable to assume attorneys, especially prosecutors, should know all of the laws that could reasonably be expected to be utilized, however, I would use an an example, that attorneys for 20 years let non-attorney employees of the Division of Child Support Enforcement illegally sign legal pleadings on behalf of that state agency, and nobody, lawyers or attorneys ever raised a stink about it.

At that time, I realized how nearly useless attorneys and judges really are.

The real crime with prosecuters in Va has nothing to do with this...

The real problem is that prosecuters are PAID by the state for every FELONY they charge someone with even if they plead it down to a misdemeanor. This means they charge everybody with a felony that tey can possibly justify legally... even if common sense dictates otherwise. Consequently people who make minor mistakes like getting in a shoving match or are caught with a friends prescription etc lose their jobs and their lives are placed on hild for a year while they get jerked around by the system. This puts the prosecuters on COMMISSION.

The Hook should consider investigating this. It ruins lives.

IMHO, Marsha Garst does an excellent job.

I do however have mixed feelings about this raid. I would view it as a lapse in judgement after the cop shoppe laid it on her plate perhaps.

As a former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of Virginia, I can attest that this is a dysfunctional party controlled by the people who have always controlled it...their favorite hobbies are consuming their own effective activists and also revising their bylaws.

One merely needs to look at and see that the "Party" hasn't put out any publication since January of 2009.

As Gasbag wrote above, we should probably be concerned, but certainly not because of anything the Libertarian Party of Virginia says.

The fact is, Marsha didn't violate the Bill of Rights...she may have violated part of the United States Code...if there was a violation of the United States Code, it didn't arise to a criminal violation and under Virginia law isn't likely grounds for removal.

You can take my opinion for what it's worth, as I actually wrote the petition, required under Virginia §24.2-233, to remove the former Harrisonburg City Treasurer.

Sieg Heilâ�Ŝ

Why is everybody busting on the Prosecuter instead of the Judge?

If she thought it was possible she had a duty to ask.

He is the "decider"

If she gets the OK then why not?

The only issue I have is wheter they asked the paper for help and were turned down. If they diod then the warrant was justified. Freedom of the press protects sources. They didn't need to know who took the pictures.

Just so I have the wording correct, I've obtained a copy of the warrant where Garst and the Harrisonburg Police Department were COMMANDED to seize the pictures. The warrant acts as a court order where disobeying the order could result in either criminal or civil contempt charges.

First, it is HIGHLY unusual for the Commonwealth's Attorney to go along for the execution of the search warrant. The fact that she was there makes it highly likely that she WROTE the search warrant involved. This wasn't a situation where the magistrate drafted a search warrant that forced her to go along. That's not how it happens.

Second, anyone who has been a prosecutor as long as Marsha Garst has should have known about the federal statute involved. It's not a new law -- it's been on the books for more than 20 years.

Third, the way that state search warrants are done, the cops or the prosecutor goes to a magistrate, who need not be a lawyer (and usually is not a lawyer). They present an affidavit saying why they believe that there is evidence to be found in the place that they want to search. They present a search warrant that they have already typed up, waiting for the magistrate's signature. The magistrate then signs it and off they go. The important point is that in 99% of the cases, the prosecutor or the police drafted the search warrant. She doesn't get off the hook just because the search warrant told her to do what she did, because odds are very high that she asked for the order to say that.

Fourth, in considering Marsha Garst's performance here, consider this -- she was the only prosecutor that I have ever known who announced, BEFORE EVEN HAVING A SUSPECT IN THE CASE, that she intended to seek the death penalty.

In my experience, the most dangerous space in Harrisonburg is the distance between Marsha Garst and a television camera.

Yes, it is highly unusual, but state law neither mandates, not prohibits from doing so...she often appears at major crime scenes, which is also neither mandated, nor prohibited under the law.

Second, I'm not sure Marsha's even attempted to acquire evidence of a crime from a media source, so if that's the case, why would you expect her to know a law she's never had to consider in application thereof? Moreover, you could say the exact thing about Judge Lane, except I'm sure he's never been asked to sign his name on such a warrant, so again, why would you expect him to know ever aspect of federal law relating to something he's never had come before him?

Third, you're saying Marsha has done something done in 99% of the, nothing out of the ordinary here...except that instead of going to a pin-headed magistrate barely unable to read Virginia law, Marsha went to a Circuit Court Judge.

Fourth, how would you KNOW when Marsha would have acquired a suspect in a case? Your statement calls for speculation unless you have untapped knowledge into her head.

I'm not a fan of what Marsha did...she obviously knew, at least after the fact, that she screwed up, which is why the Breeze's faculty adviser is in possession of the pictures.

My great concern is that the Libertarian Party press release makes the Chairman of the Party look ignorant of both the law and the process.


I'll only address your second point here. We expect Marsha to know the law, even if she's never attempted a particular action before because it's her JOB to either know, or do some research before she attempts something she's never done before.

A basic tenet of law enforcement is "ignorance of the law is no excuse". If you or I do something that violates a law, we will be prosecuted for the act, even if we didn't know it was illegal. We should hold Marsha to the same standard.

It is akin to the Commonwealth of Virginia being paid $.66 for every dollar that is run through the Division of Child Support encourages the state to issuer higher awards of child support than the non-custodial parents can generally afford to pay.

I mean, why else would it be ILLEGAL to pay your child support IN ADVANCE?