A Manassas resident who fatally shot a man and hit a woman with a leaf blower at the Chantilly Park Shopping Center in 2019 has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and malicious wounding, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced Friday (April 28).
Steven Green, 55, faced a trial in March for the murder of 30-year-old Chantilly resident Miguel Angel Leiva Hernandez, but that ended with a hung jury.
With the jury about evenly split, no one on the victims’ side wanted to go through the experience of another trial, according to Laura Birnbaum, a spokesperson for the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
“Having been through it and seeing how the evidence came out and how the jury reacted to it, there just wasn’t any appetite to do that again, so we ended up with this outcome,” Birnbaum said. “…This is guaranteed accountability. It addresses the incident, and all of the victims are happy with it.”
According to the commonwealth’s attorney, Green was cleaning the shopping center’s parking lot on May 24, 2019 when he got into “an altercation” with Myra Osorio Cordero outside a restaurant.
Green used his leaf blowers to send debris towards Osorio Cordero and, after they exchanged words, hit her in the face with one of the leaf blowers. When Leiva Hernandez saw Osorio Cordero bleeding profusely, he followed Green into the parking lot, where a physical struggle ensued and Green shot him once in the chest, killing him.
Osorio Cordero survived the encounter.
CA Descano announced today that Steven Green pleaded guilty to manslaughter and malicious wounding for the 2019 shooting of Miguel Leiva Hernandez. His March trial ended in a hung jury.
Green will be sentenced on September 1st. pic.twitter.com/mTJWsYlHyl
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) April 28, 2023
According to a police report at the time, Green remained at the scene in the 14500 block of Lee Jackson Memorial Highway until police arrived. He was charged and tried for murder, malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Green claimed self-defense at the March trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court, according to NBC4.
To secure a guilty plea, prosecutors amended the murder charge to manslaughter and dropped the firearm charge. A sentencing hearing will be held on Sept. 1.
“It’s always a tragedy when a young person dies, and nothing can bring Miguel back to his family and loved ones,” Descano said in a statement on Friday. “As prosecutors, our job is to put on a fair trial, and we respect the original jury’s serious deliberation of the evidence in this case. Today’s agreement guarantees a just outcome for the community.”
Descano’s office also announced Friday that 22-year-old Lorton resident Ronnie Marshall had been sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing Army colonel and doctor Edward McDaniel Jr. and his wife, Brenda McDaniel, a retired Army colonel and a nurse, at their home in Springfield in 2021.
The primary for Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney may be the most cutthroat race on the ballot in a year when local voters will also choose representatives on the Board of Supervisors, school board and General Assembly.
On Friday (April 21), Democratic incumbent Steve Descano and challenger Ed Nuttall appeared together on WAMU’s “The Politics Hour,” the weekly radio show hosted by Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood, and the conversation got spicy.
At one point, Descano accused Nuttall of associating with “MAGA, antisemitic conspiracy theorists.” Nuttall responded by calling Descano “a liar” and “incompetent.”
There was also considerable back-and-forth about each other’s work backgrounds, current crime rates, office morale, management styles, and political affiliations.
In between arguments and personal attacks, though, the candidates managed to work in some policy debate, disagreeing on how the commonwealth’s attorney’s office (CA’s office) should handle cases involving police officers, where to allocate county funding, and how to best support victims of violent crimes.
Descano and Nuttle did find common ground on some issues. Both agreed they wouldn’t prosecute residents for getting an abortion or purchasing the pill mifepristone if those health care options were ever limited or outright banned.
The two also praised the Board of Supervisors for its continued funding of the top county prosecutor’s office over the last two budget cycles, though they diverged on how exactly the money should be used.
But the agreements were overshadowed by discord and name-calling from the two Democratic candidates.
One of the main areas of conversation was how the CA’s office works with victims of violent crimes. On his campaign website, Nuttall pledges to hire a “victim services liaison” if elected to ensure victims’ concerns are heard — a part of the job that he says Descano has “mismanaged.”
“There are zero communications between the victim services department and the police department and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office,” Nuttall said. “They don’t get along. They don’t communicate. He doesn’t return their phone calls. He doesn’t return emails.”
When asked if he believes Descano is doing this purposefully, Nuttall said it’s more about not knowing how to do the job.
“I think he doesn’t know how to handle crime. I think he mismanages the office. I think he’s incompetent,” the challenger said.
Descano countered that he’s made the office more professional with more hires, while improving its electronic database. He’s focused on diversion programs, which he says have made community members safer and more trusting of the legal system. Descano also highlighted a bond data dashboard released last year as evidence of his office’s transparency.
“What we’ve done is…made [the office] run more efficiently, made it run better, made it run better for victims,” Descano said. “One thing that really bothers me about this race is that Ed Nuttall…is being the Republican that he is and has taken Republican talking points and, quite frankly disgustingly, is using victims in a way that is pretty gross.” Read More
(Updated at 9:35 a.m. on 4/18/2023) A Fairfax County grand jury opted not to indict the police officer accused of shooting and killing Timothy Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center in February.
The Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was scheduled to share an update in the case with a press conference at noon, but the event was canceled after the grand jury’s decision came out. The news was first reported by NBC4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a statement that he had anticipated the grand jury to come through with an indictment, to the point where he told Johnson’s family this morning that they could expect one.
“I can only imagine their pain and shock when they received the news that the officer — who shot and killed their unarmed son — was not indicted,” Descano said. “Since, by law, no prosecutors were permitted to be present in the room when the investigating officers made their presentation to the grand jury, I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors. In light of this outcome, I am evaluating all options on the path forward and continue to grieve Timothy’s loss.”
Prosecutors had sought charges for involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.
An attorney representing Johnson’s family said the family had no comment for the time being. The Fairfax County Police Department didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Two police officers shot and killed Johnson, a 37-year-old man from Maryland, after pursuing him by foot across a parking lot at Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 22. He had allegedly tried to shoplift sunglasses from Nordstrom.
Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis fired one of the officers involved in the shooting last month. While the officer’s name wasn’t mentioned, the Washington Post reported that he was Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, a seven-year veteran of the department who was believed to have fired the fatal shots.
The second officer — previously identified as eight-year veteran James Sadler — was kept on modified restricted duty but remains employed by the FCPD.
In the wake of the shooting, Johnson’s parents and the Fairfax County NAACP have questioned the uptick in shootings by county police under Davis’s tenure, particularly in 2022, and the department’s lack of a policy dictating when officers should engage in a foot pursuit, despite one being recommended.
The FCPD announced on March 3 that it had agreed to let the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) study the recent shootings for broad trends, though the study won’t specifically focus on Johnson’s death.
PERF will also provide guidance to the department for a potential foot pursuit policy.
A prison sentence is pending for the man who fired gunshots in Tysons Corner Center on Father’s Day weekend last summer, triggering a panicked evacuation.
Noah Settles, a 23-year-old D.C. resident also known as the rapper No Savage, pleaded guilty to four felony charges related to the incident, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced today (Thursday).
He will serve at least three years in prison, with a potential maximum sentence of 33 years.
“When I came into office, we promised to take serious crimes seriously,” Descano said in a statement. “I can think of few more serious crimes than this: taking a gun and firing into a crowded, public space, endangering the safety of our community members and visitors, disrupting public life, and threatening their future sense of safety.”
A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury indicted Settles on seven charges in September after he fired three gunshots in one of the D.C. area’s busiest malls on June 18. Stores in Tysons Corner Center were locked down, and visitors reported people screaming and fleeing what they feared was an active shooter.
No one was injured by the gunfire, but three people were taken to the hospital with injuries that occurred during the evacuation, Fairfax County police said at the time.
The Fairfax County Police Department later identified Settles as their suspect, describing the incident as an escalation of a verbal argument between two D.C. “crews.” He turned himself in at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on June 22.
In a hearing today, where prosecutors showed footage compiled from mall surveillance cameras and bystanders’ phones, Settles pleaded guilty to three counts of maliciously discharging a firearm in an occupied building and one count of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to Descano’s office.
He had also been charged with felony attempted malicious wounding and two misdemeanors for brandishing a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.
With the plea, Settles will avoid a trial that had been scheduled to begin Monday (Feb. 13). A sentencing hearing is set for June 23.
“Today’s outcome guarantees accountability for every piece of this incident,” Descano said. “The defendant is pleading guilty to the most serious charges, giving the judge the opportunity to craft a sentence commensurate with seriousness of crime.”
Since the June 18 incident, Tysons Corner Center has been the site of two other gun scares, one of which stemmed from a shattered light fixture and the other related to a jewelry store robbery.
A bus driver was indicted by a grand jury yesterday (Tuesday) for allegedly driving drunk while transporting D.C. kindergarten students home from a trip to Cox Farms in Centreville.
Troy Reynolds, 48, faces nine felony charges of child endangerment and three misdemeanor charges, including a second offense of driving while intoxicated, driving with a disqualified commercial license, and driving a bus without a commercial driver’s license, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced today.
“My office takes crimes that endanger children very seriously,” Descano said in the press release. “We’re grateful to our partners at the Fairfax County Police Department for their collaboration on this case.”
CA Descano announced that a grand jury indicted Troy Reynolds, 48, for charges related to driving a school bus full of kindergartners while intoxicated. pic.twitter.com/UAJZvcnjpF
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) December 21, 2022
Reynolds was arrested on Oct. 27 after he reportedly drove a school bus carrying 44 students and four adults from Murch Elementary School off the road, hitting a rock and flattening a tire. Nine kids were injured, according to Descano’s office.
At the insistence of staff on board, the bus stopped in the 1500 block of Conference Center Drive in Chantilly, and the kids were transferred to the Fairfax Criminal Justice Academy, where two buses provided by Fairfax County Public Schools took them to D.C.
The FCPD said at the time that a test revealed that Reynolds had a blood alcohol content of .20. Officers also found that his commercial driver’s license had been revoked in Virginia due to a prior DWI and suspended in Maryland.
The case will go to trial tomorrow (Thursday), according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
A trio of local nonprofits that assist people who have experienced abuse and domestic violence got a little funding boost last week, courtesy of Fairfax County prosecutors.
On Thursday (Dec. 15), the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney named the Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and United Community’s Progreso Literacy and Citizenship Center as the inaugural recipients of its new Community Partnership Grants, which are intended for organizations that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and crimes against children.
Funds were also awarded to SafeSpot, which provides advocacy and support services to child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families.
“My office is proud to partner with these three organizations that provide resources for victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a news release. “I am personally grateful for the work they do in our community — supporting victims throughout the legal process and helping them on the path to healing and recovery is critical work and will help make our community stronger and safer.”
CA Descano is proud to announce the recipients of our office's first Community Partnership grants.
These organizations received grants of $8,000 – to be used for programs and services that directly support victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and child victims of crime. pic.twitter.com/VR8ulqJTZh
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) December 15, 2022
The $8,000 grants are funded by proceeds from asset forfeiture, where law enforcement can seize and retain or sell property involved in a crime. Descano’s office didn’t share how much it gets from forfeitures but said it can grant up to $25,000 per year.
In Virginia, forfeited assets and the proceeds from any sales are put into a Department of Criminal Justice Services fund and then distributed back to the agencies that participated in the investigation that led to the seizures.
The money must be used “to promote law enforcement,” which could include victim services and other efforts to build relationships and encourage cooperation with the community, per state law.
The application for the Community Partnership Grants program asked organizations how they would use the grant to “support law enforcement, or improve the relationship between law enforcement and the Fairfax community.”
According to its website, SafeSpot is partnered with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Fairfax County Police Department, among others, as part of its work to help victims and their families navigate criminal investigations and court proceedings.
Though headquartered in New York, WAW established an office in the Springfield area earlier this year that provides basic needs support, immigration-related legal services, counseling and educational classes to Virginia’s Afghan community, which is the second-largest in the country.
“The need for direct and comprehensive services has only increased since last summer,” WAW Program Manager Mariam Kakar said. “As the only Afghan-led organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, we look forward to using these funds to help many individuals and families in our local community.”
Founded in 1969 by faith groups and volunteers, United Community offers supportive services, such as food assistance, crisis intervention and more, with the goal of ending poverty, specifically along the Route 1 corridor.
Located in the Gerry Hyland Government Center in Mount Vernon, the Progreso center provides education, citizenship classes and legal services to immigrants, including survivors of domestic violence.
“As the leading human services non-profit agency in southeastern Fairfax County, United Community seeks out opportunities to collaborate with our allies throughout the community,” said Alison DeCourcey, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “We’re grateful to Commonwealth’s Attorney Descano and his office for this grant, which will dramatically help us improve our reach and services to immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.”
Descano, who is planning to seek reelection next year, hopes to make the community partnership grants an annual program, according to his office.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano is gearing up for what may be the most heated local election race in 2023.
The first-term chief prosecutor, who defeated a longtime incumbent in 2019 on the strength of a progressive platform, is planning to seek reelection next year, a representative for Descano confirmed to FFXnow.
An official announcement is expected to come soon, another spokesperson said.
Over the last three years, Descano has championed reform policies including a diversion program for those who commit non-violent crimes, increased transparency of bond hearing data, and an end to cash bail.
Like Arlington’s Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Loudoun’s Buta Biberaj, who were also elected in 2019 as reform advocates, Descano has been accused of being “soft on crime” and mishandling certain cases, with those involving sexual violence receiving particular scrutiny. He was also the focus of two recall campaigns last year.
In a statement to FFXnow, Descano touts his record as a “progressive” who has helped the county become “the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country, saying he’s been “encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work.”
I plan on making an announcement soon regarding the 2023 election. Since first being elected in 2019 I have worked each day to deliver safety and justice for our community. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, delivering progressive criminal justice reform including investments in “next generation” diversion programs, increased use of Veterans Treatment and Mental Health dockets, creating a Red Flag Law team aimed at getting guns out of someone’s hands who poses a danger, and leading a more transparent office by the launch of a public Data Dashboard on our work.
These and other reforms have helped deliver a justice system led by our values all while making Fairfax County the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country. I have been encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work. I am grateful for that encouragement and also for the widespread community support that has resulted in us having over $100,000 in campaign funds on hand one full year prior to the next election. This shows the strength and breadth of the support from those that want to keep Fairfax County’s justice system moving forward.
Four years ago, Decano was part of a wave of Northern Virginia progressive prosecutors to be elected as their localities’ top law enforcement officer.
In Arlington, Dehghani-Tafti launched her reelection campaign late last month. Biberaj hasn’t yet declared her intentions for next year.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid is also planning to run for reelection in 2023, she told FFXnow by email, though she didn’t elaborate on her reasoning.
Kincaid was first elected in 2013 in a special election, becoming the first woman to lead the office in its nearly three centuries of existence. She was reelected in 2015 and 2019, so this will be her fourth time running. Read More
The owners of Sully’s Pour House, a gastropub in the Town of Herndon, is disappointed over the handling of prosecution against a man who allegedly fired a gun in the business on Nov. 6 last year.
In a scathing Nov. 30 Facebook post, the owners said the justice system failed the business and the community by not taking a tougher stance on the case, accusing the office of Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano of trivializing “a stressful, frightening, and unsafe situation.”
“Where is MY PROTECTION? I didn’t ask your office to move mountains. I expected your office to PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY. There were MULTIPLE FELONIES committed that night. I only asked for ONE TO stick. One FELONY,” the business wrote in the post.
The defendant, De’Quinn Le’Charn Hall, 29, has been indicted on a felony charge of discharging a firearm in an occupied building. A plea deal was offered but hasn’t been officially accepted by the court. A Fairfax County Circuit Court grand jury will take up the matter on Dec. 22.
The post by Sully’s includes allegations that additional charges were not pursued in order to avoid impacting the defendant’s commercial driver’s license. It also states that the case was not handled seriously because no one was killed in the incident.
“HE jeopardized LIVES and your office cared about his job?!” the post says. “We still have people traumatized, but why would you care about them.”
Laura Birnbaum, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, emphasized that the investigation is still ongoing. She also disputed some statements in the post, including its characterization of how one of the assistant commonwealth’s attorneys interacted with the victim and the police department.
“This case is ongoing and no final resolution has been presented to or accepted by the court,” she said. “CA Descano is reviewing this case and will determine the proper path forward. We want this community to know that we take these types of crimes seriously and will always seek final outcomes in line with the seriousness of the alleged conduct.”
Photo via Google Maps
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
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.”