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The first phase of development will kick off with building one (via Fairfax County)

Plans are officially in for the massive redevelopment of Fairfax’s judicial complex — a 48-acre swath of land that is slated for redevelopment.

The complex is currently home to Fairfax County’s circuit, general, district and juvenile courts, along with the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, jail and volunteer organizations.

Over the next 20 years, the county plans to add nearly one million square of development to the complex — bringing the total square footage of development to 2.3 million square feet.

Five new buildings are proposed:

  • Building 1 (180,000 square feet): offices for courts, storage for circuit court, police and fire
  • Building 2 (180,000 square feet): offices for the county, court supportive services, childcare; early childhood education training center, retail and food service
  • Building 3 (190,000 square feet): offices for the county or private use; retail and food service
  • Building 4 (150,000 square feet): diversion and community re-entry; short term and long-term supportive housing
  • Building 5: 300 affordable housing units and child care

The historic courthouse will also get a new entrance facing West Street.

County officials have envisioned the redevelopment for years in what’s contemplated to be a 20-year plan. Some pieces of the undertaking are currently in progress.

So far, the development team plans to begin constructing the first building to “unlock” the development potential of the remainder of the property. The building will be home to programs currently in the Historic Courthouse, the existing police annex and evidence storage, and the Burkholder building.

Once the programs move into the new building, the Burkholder and police buildings will be demolished to construct affordable housing. That move is intended to “provide some flexibility during the capital renewal of the historic courthouse,” according to the plan.

But the application emphasizes that the development plan could change.

“The applicant reserves the right to construct the new buildings in any order, dependent upon the approved funding from the Board of Supervisors,” it states. “Any and all transportation and/or site improvements required for the use and occupancy of a given building will be constructed at such time as that building is developed.”

To make way for the new features of the project,  the Legato School will be relocated, and a building for police annex and evidence storage and another school administration an annex uses will be removed. Parking Garage A will also be demolished.

The master planning process for the project kicked off in 2018 following the demolition of the Massey building. The process concluded last year following a public engagement period and with the goal of more effectively delivering county services to the community.

Five open spaces are planned as part of the project: courthouse grounds, a courthouse plaza, a central green, a gateway promenade and fields near the courthouse.

The gateway promenade — the most prominent of the open spaces proposed — is inspired by the National Mall and will create 20-foot-wide paths, along with possible seating areas and temporary installations.

The apartment units would target households earning around 60% or below of the area median income, according to the application.

The current central road loop around the demolished Massey building will be replaced with a grid of streets that connects to neighboring Fairfax City’s Old Town and creates an urban-block pattern.

The proposal has not been formally accepted for review by the county.

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Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Bond Data Dashboard (via Fairfax County)

A new data dashboard shows Fairfax County prosecutors are sometimes asking for more detainments of defendants than judges.

The Office of the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney (OCA) released a dashboard in October with data comparing how often and under what circumstances prosecutors are asking for pre-trial detainment and release to a judge’s recommendations.

“We’re trying to become a more data-driven office,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano told FFXnow. “We’re using this information that we’re collecting here for internal improvements, internal trainings, restructurings, and changing of our processes.”

He acknowledged that too often decisions in the justice system lack transparency and are done without the public’s knowledge.

“We want to let the community know what is going on in their justice system,” he said. “I think this system is a black box to many people. We want to change that.”

Courts and prosecutors diverge on when to detain defendants

The dashboard only covers bond review hearings, where a county prosecutor makes a recommendation to a judge that a defendant either be detained or released before their trial.

Descano said that involves “a small percentage of our cases,” though he was unable to provide the exact percentage compared to the total number of cases handled by the county.

The dashboard also only has data from a six-month period between Jan. 1, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

According to the provided data, decisions by the OCA don’t always neatly line up with the self-described “progressive” prosecutor reputation that Descano ran on in 2019, nor do they clearly affirm detractors’ perception of the office as “soft on crime.”

While prosecutors and courts generally align on non-violent misdemeanors and felonies, the OCA recommended detainment for violent felonies 20% more often than the courts, including cases involving cash bail. Descano called that the number one “disagreement” between his office and judges.

As the dashboard notes, the OCA and courts don’t always agree on when a perpetrator is a “danger to family or household member.” Descano said those disagreements generally relate to domestic violence cases, particularly those involving strangulation.

“We take those really seriously because data has shown that if an intimate partner strangles somebody, they’re seven times more likely to actually murder them,” Descano said.

The OCA also recommended detentions for sex offenses at higher rates than the courts. For felonies, it asked for detainment 89% of the time, while the judges recommended it 52% of the time. For misdemeanors, OCA asked for detainment 58% of the time, with judges agreeing in only 25% of cases.

“It shows me that some judges may not see the same dangerousness to those types of crimes that we do or may value it differently,” Descano said. “We’re not putting this out data to try to slam judges or anything. If anything, it shows [how] different actors in the system view different types of accusations.” Read More

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Fairfax County Police Department Maj. Ed O’Carroll announces that Kevin Alexander Lemus has been arrested for a fatal shooting on Sept. 17 (via FCPD/Twitter)

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) An 18-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection to a fatal shooting in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Saturday, the Fairfax County Police Department announced this morning (Wednesday).

Kevin Alexander Lemus was arrested around 7 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday) after police found him in the 7200 block of John Paul Drive in Groveton, FCPD Major Crimes Bureau Cyber and Forensics Commander Maj. Ed O’Carroll said at a press conference.

After his arrest, Lemus was transported to the Fairfax County Public Safety Headquarters, where he confessed to pulling the trigger that killed 19-year-old Annandale resident Darlin Ariel Diaz Flores, according to O’Carroll.

Also charged with possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Lemus has had over 80 previous encounters with local law enforcement, including “numerous serious contacts,” police say.

“We are all safer with Lemus behind bars,” O’Carroll said. “He chose to have a gun, not his first time. He chose to shoot a man and ultimately take a life. Now, he will face consequences for his actions.”

According to police, Diaz Flores was in Woodlawn after attending a social event in Maryland and was waiting with friends to get a ride home outside an apartment in the 8400 block of Graves Street.

The confrontation that resulted in the shooting started with an exchange of “very simple words” between Diaz Flores and Lemus, who was passing by, O’Carroll said. Police don’t believe the two men knew each other, the department told FFXnow.

Diaz Flores was shot in the upper body, and Lemus fled the scene, police say. After a community member called 911 at 9:34 p.m., police officers found Diaz Flores, and he was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died shortly after arriving.

According to O’Carroll, FCPD detectives embarked on a multi-day canvass of the neighborhood, where they interviewed witnesses and residents, looked for surveillance footage, and collected forensic evidence from the scene.

“Their important work eventually led to a big break in the case, and Lemus was identified as our killer,” O’Carroll said.

When asked by FFXnow, the FCPD didn’t elaborate on how Lemus was identified as the suspect or his past encounters with local police, stating that it is “not able to discuss juvenile records.”

The gun used in the shooting hasn’t been located, according to the department, which advises anyone with information to contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2, or through Crime Solvers.

Fairfax County General District Court records show that Lemus was already facing three felony charges stemming from an April 20 incident and arrest. He faced two counts of possession of schedule I or II drugs and a related gun possession charge.

A judge had released Lemus in April on a personal recognizance bond of $2,500, the court told FFXnow, though the records don’t show the reasoning behind that decision.

The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney confirmed that the release was the judge’s decision. Fairfax County’s public defender’s office, which is listed on court records as Lemus’s defense attorney, said it had no comment.

Lemus is now being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. He’s scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 25 for a hearing on both cases.

Diaz Flores was the 11th person killed by gunfire in Fairfax County this year, according to the police department.

Photo via FCPD/Twitter

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Fairfax County police clear Tysons Corner Center after a gunfire incident on June 18 (staff photo by James Cullum)

The man who allegedly fired a gun inside Tysons Corner Center this summer, sparking a chaotic evacuation of the mall, is expected to face trial after getting indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury yesterday (Monday).

The circuit court jury indicted Noah Settles, a 22-year-old D.C. resident also known as rapper No Savage, on seven charges that could result in up to 45 years of imprisonment if he’s convicted, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano told FFXnow.

“This really traumatized folks who were in the mall that day and really left a scar on the people in Fairfax County at large,” Descano said of the June 18 incident. “I want people to know that you cannot come into Fairfax County, wave a gun around and shoot off in a crowded building and not expect to be held accountable and to be held accountable severely, and that’s what we’re looking to do here.”

Settles turned himself in on June 22 after the Fairfax County Police Department identified him as the suspect in the shooting, alleging that he had fired three gunshots on a mall concourse after getting into an argument with a rival “crew” based in southeast D.C.

No one was hit by the gunfire, but three people were injured while fleeing, police said. About six weeks later, Tysons Corner Center was evacuated again after the sound of a shattered light fixture prompted panic and unfounded rumors of an active shooter.

Settles was initially charged with attempted malicious wounding, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and three counts of discharging a weapon into an occupied building.

According to Descano, the grand jury’s indictment included two additional charges for brandishing a firearm and possession of a concealed firearm that prosecutors introduced after a preliminary hearing in Fairfax County General District Court on Aug. 15.

At the hearing, a lawyer for Settles argued that he had acted in self-defense, though a judge found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury, WUSA9 reported. Settles’ defense attorney, Peter Greenspun, didn’t return a request for comment by press time.

Descano says the new charges will enable prosecutors “to fully tell the story of what allegedly happened that day, particularly before the first rounds were fired off.”

“Those two additional charges are vital to producing accountability, which is really what our end goal here is,” he said.

Descano says his office is committed to prosecuting existing gun laws, but he has also argued that more federal and state legislation is needed to address the issue of gun violence, including a closure of loopholes that allow untraceable “ghost guns.”

Just this past weekend, the FCPD responded to two shootings, one in Annandale and another in Woodlawn that ended in the victim’s death.

“Action is needed because we can’t live with this as the new normal,” Descano said. “…When you have guns flooding the streets, what starts as a personal beef can very quickly escalate into shooting, violence, and death.”

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Fairfax County Courthouse (file photo)

Just days before allegedly raping a woman at her apartment in Reston, Anthony Agee had been released from police custody on bond after being arrested on a felony drug charge, Fairfax County court records show.

Though only 22 years old, Agee has been in county courts on a variety of charges dating back to a Feb. 21, 2017 traffic violation for failing to obey a highway sign, where he paid a $30 fine, according to the General District Court’s online information system.

Though Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano has faced criticism for prosecution decisions some see as overly lenient, his office says Agee wasn’t in custody in part due to a plea deal that prosecutors under his predecessor, Ray Morrogh, offered for an armed burglary attempt that occurred on April 30, 2018.

The deal was approved by a Fairfax County judge and capped the incarceration portion of Agee’s sentence at three years. He was released from jail in December 2020, according to the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“Our hearts break for the victim of the tragic crime in Reston over the weekend and we will prosecute this case to the full extent of the law,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office said.

Since being released from jail, Agee has been arrested four times, including on March 1, 2021 for stealing a vehicle and on Feb. 23 for an incident involving a gun and breaking and entering.

In the March 1 case, Agee was charged with vehicle theft, reckless driving, failure to identify himself to law enforcement, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident. The vehicle theft charge — the only felony — was downgraded to petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Per court records, Agee didn’t contest the charges at a preliminary hearing on Sept. 1, 2021. The case also included a civil violation for possession of marijuana that was dismissed on Jan. 20 of this year.

A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge found earlier this month that the incident constituted a violation of Agee’s probation, but the judge took no further action and let him remain out on probation, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Agee’s Feb. 23 arrest stemmed from a shooting at the Paper Moon strip club in Springfield and led to felony charges of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and entering a structure with the intent to commit assault, battery or another felony, along with a misdemeanor for brandishing a firearm.

Agee was detained, but at an April 4 preliminary hearing, prosecutors dismissed the case without prejudice, according to court records.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says it asked for a dismissal as a temporary measure, because the case needed further investigation, including DNA testing, search warrants, and other evidence gathering. Read More

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Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

While it won’t be quiet around Fairfax County on Monday with Fourth of July celebrations, many government offices and facilities will be closed.

Government offices, and some businesses, are closed for the Independence Day holiday. Public transportation schedules may be lighter and public services, like trash collection, may be changed. See our listing below to get details on what will be open and closed.

Government

Fairfax County government offices will be closed Monday (July 4) in recognition of the Fourth of July holiday, but some facilities are open and schedules vary.

The library system’s branches will be closed on Monday. Animal Control is closed, as it normally is, on Mondays.

The Circuit and District courts will be closed Monday.

The Town of Herndon offices will be closed Monday.

Park Authority

All Park Authority rec centers and golf centers and will be open Monday. Historic sites, nature centers and Green Spring Gardens will be closed. Frying Pan Farm Park Farm and indoor arena will be open while its visitor center will be closed. The River Bend Park Visitor Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All Neighborhood and Community Service facilities will be closed Saturday (July 2) through Monday. Reston Community Center Hunter Woods will be open Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Lake Anne will be closed on Monday.

The McLean Community Center will be closed.

Herndon Community Center will be closed Monday. But Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting.

Transportation

Fairfax Connector will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday. Human Services Transportation (FASTRAN) will not operate on Monday.

On Monday, Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight but last train times vary by station. The Orange Line trains will operate between Vienna and Stadium-Armory only, according to Metro, but free express and local shuttle buses will be provided.

Trash

The county advises residents to contact their trash and recycling collector directly for service schedule changes due to the holiday.

The I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed Monday.

Town of Herndon recycling will be collected Tuesday (July 5) since it is normally collected Monday.

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Morning Notes

Under the virtual shark tank at Reston Station (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Austin Transit Leader Named New Metro General Manager — “Metro on Tuesday tapped the chief executive of a Texas transit agency to lead the system through safety and pandemic-related challenges that have frustrated riders and strained public transportation…Randy Clarke, 45, will replace Paul J. Wiedefeld, who announced in January that he would retire on June 30″ [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Firefighter Gets Funeral Procession — “Tuesday marked the final farewell for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Captain Kimberly Schoppa, who died last month from occupational cancer. Her line-of-duty funeral included a procession and escort to the church, with her flag-draped casket onboard a fire truck and then carried inside by the Honor Guard.” [ABC7]

Jury Awards Tysons Company $2B in Damages — A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury awarded Appian over $2 billion in damages after finding rival software company Pegasystems Inc. stole its trade secrets. Announced yesterday (Tuesday) after a seven-week trial, the damages are the largest ever awarded in Virginia court history, Appian says. [Appian]

County Board Approves New Budget — “On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the fiscal year 2023 budget, which reduces the real estate tax rate by 3 cents. The approved budget did not change from the budget markup the board approved on April 26.” [Patch]

Teachers’ Union Calls for Continued Virtual Learning — The Fairfax Education Association sent a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand and school board members last week urging them to “continue offering a limited virtual school program for vulnerable students and staff.” FCPS announced in March that it will discontinue the option in the next school year. [WTOP]

Former Reston Association Board President Dies at 84 — “In the words of one reporter, Mike [Freeman Jr.] had a case of chronic community activism for a myriad of Reston organizations, including St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, FISH, and soccer and swim teams. He was a volunteer driver for the first local RIBS bus, and an elected board member of the Reston Association, serving as Board President 1988-89.” [Patch]

County Opens West Falls Church Transportation Survey — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of virtual community meetings to present updates on the West Falls Church (WFC) Active Transportation Study…The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input as well as completing an online survey to provide feedback.” [FCDOT]

Fairfax County Honors Hockey Team and Teachers — The Board of Supervisors recognized the Langley High School ice hockey team yesterday for winning the Northern Virginia School Hockey League championship in February while also completing the season with the least amount of penalties among teams. The board also designated May as Teacher Appreciation Month. [Fairfax County]

Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair Starts Today — “The free-to-attend event features two days of opportunities for candidates to connect with companies, with in-person sessions between 10:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and a virtual fair taking place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET on May 12″ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 50. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County residents getting a divorce or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit can now get documents filed electronically instead of trekking over to the county courthouse.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court launched a new e-filing system on Monday (May 2), a notable step for a court that requires a paid subscription for access to case information and an in-person visit to obtain documents except in a select few cases.

To develop the service, which is currently available for existing divorce, personal injury, and contract cases, the court has partnered with the Texas-based company File & Serve Express (FSX), which says it manages more than 80 million documents and works in 1,300 courts across 20 states and D.C.

“The Pandemic has changed the practice of law, with more remote-work and ‘virtual practice’ in the legal industry,” Circuit Court Deputy Clerk Gerarda Culipher said in a news release. “Offering eFiling to our customers improves their access to justice, saves them costs and trips to the courthouse, thus making our court system easier to navigate in a digital age.”

The service isn’t free, as FSX charges a “modest” subscription fee as well as a search fee for subscribers who want to look at non-sealed documents for cases where they’re not a party.

According to the release, the court has been piloting the e-filing system with “several” law firms, and the feedback so far has indicated that it’s easy to use, Circuit Court Clerk John Frey said.

Chief Judge Penney Azcarate issued an order on April 26 permitting the clerk’s office to implement e-filing. The order indicates that electronic filing will ultimately be available for documents in all civil and criminal cases.

The court, which handles over 30,000 criminal and civil cases a year, is introducing e-filing in phases to ensure the system can handle the volume and complexity of cases, Frey said. The divorce, contract, and personal injury cases in this first phase make up “the bulk of litigation,” according to the court.

The court says other civil cases will be added this summer, but it’ll be “a while” before the service expands to criminal cases, Chief Deputy Clerk Suzanne Lubkeman told FFXnow.

“We are looking forward to offering this service to everyone, as Phase 1 successfully launches, and we move on to expanding to all types of cases,” Frey said.

While the e-filing service is primarily relevant to lawyers, FSX has public access accounts that provide “real-time access to publicly-available court documents” across the country, according to the registration form.

The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment seeking to clarify whether that will allow access to electronically filed documents in Fairfax County cases.

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Morning Notes

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Police Make Progress on Hannah Choi Murder Case — Fairfax County detectives believe they know the location of the man suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend and dumping her body in a Maryland park, according to Police Chief Kevin Davis. He says the department anticipates apprehending Joel Mosso Merino, who has been on the run since March, “in the very near future.” [WTOP]

Circuit Court Officially Adds First Female Judge of Color — “Tania M.L. Saylor, the first woman of color to serve as a Fairfax County Circuity [sic] Court Judge will be presented her official commission on Friday, May 6, at 4 p.m. in Courtroom 5J of the Fairfax County Courthouse. The public is invited to attend the investiture ceremony.” [Fairfax County Government]

Key FCPS Official Named Fairfax City Superintendent — “The City of Fairfax School Board didn’t look far when picking its next superintendent. The board on Monday offered Jeff Platenberg the role. Platenberg currently works for Fairfax County Public Schools as the assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation services.” [WTOP]

Locally Owned Coffee Shop Opens in Newington — “Two neighbors who live close to the Landsdowne shopping center are now the owners of a new coffee shop. The locally owned Coffee In opened a few weeks ago and will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday at 6432 Landsdowne Centre Drive.” [Patch]

Herndon Foster Mother Starts Nonprofit — The nonprofit Foster the Family “will show up to a foster home, within the first 24 hours, with dinner, clothes, PJ’s, hygiene products and all the supplies a child needs, saving the parents an emergency trip to the store, and helping the child feel comfortable in what can be a scary transition.” [ABC7]

McLean Church Builds Labyrinth — “Trinity United Methodist Church dedicated a labyrinth as its new Prayer Garden on Easter morning between worship services…The labyrinth is surrounded by plantings and benches with lighting to facilitate an atmosphere worthy of spiritual reflection and meditation. It is the most significant labyrinth in scope and size in the McLean area.” [Sun Gazette]

South County Students Send Letters to Seniors — “In Lorton, Virginia, 92-year-old Bernice Alexander reads from just one of the dozens of letters received at her senior living community. They were written by teenagers at South County High School, and some come with artwork, paintings and cheery posters, too.” [NBC4]

County Adopts Bill of Rights for Kids’ Sports — “The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood & Community Services (NCS), along with the Fairfax County Athletic Council, is pleased to adopt the Children’s Bill of Rights in Sports. Developed by the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program, this is a new resource designed to ensure that all children have a right to a quality sports experience.” [NCS]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:05 pm. [Weather.gov]

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