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Commonwealth’s Attorney Rivals Clash Over Staff Loyalty

  In challenging his former boss for the Commonwealth’s Attorney job, Josh Katcher for months has argued that the incumbent’s office is in a “free fall” shedding of disgruntled staff attorneys. This week brought a rebuttal from two deputies of incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who defended her in May 15 comments to the Arlington Patch.

“Over the course of these last three-and-a-half years, we have put together a good team that we are building and expanding on,” said Jeff Overand, chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney for Arlington and Falls Church.

Nassir Aboreden, deputy commonwealth’s attorney in charge of the special victims unit, told Patch he believes the office has made major progress since Dehghani-Tafti took office in January 2020. “The team we have now are people who really care about the mission, really care about the community, and they’re people who are really good at their jobs,” said Aboreden, who has experience in a earlier prosecutor’s office in Loudoun County. There have been attorneys “who haven’t been on board” with Dehghani-Tafti’s restorative justice agenda. “And that’s okay. That’s normal when you try to shake up a system as much as we have,” he said.

The incumbent also drew support from the chief in the Office of the Public Defender for Arlington and Falls Church, Brad Haywood. “Parisa is doing it the right way,” Haywood told Patch. “I think Arlington has the potential to be a template or a paragon for reform-oriented prosecution elsewhere. I feel like she’s in the best shape she has been in terms of her office leadership.”

Asked to respond, Katcher told the News-Press: “When it comes to turnover in her office, lack of crime data, or botched cases, Ms. Tafti and her supporters seem to be willing to blame everyone but herself. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I won’t be passing blame around; the buck stops with me. This is another desperate attempt by Ms. Tafti to distract from the issues and her record.”

Dehghani-Tafti told the News-Press that she did not instruct her staffers to speak to the Patch.

The candidates clashed earlier over relations between police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, debating May 9 at the Arlington County Civic Federation.

Dehghani-Tafti complained that “the police are catching fewer people. The greatest deterrent to crime is the certainty of getting caught. We can’t prosecute cases that don’t come to us,” she said, as reported by the Gazette-Leader. She said she has a “healthy” relationship with police leaders and rank-and-file, suggesting that Katcher is “too cozy” with them. “You can’t play the oversight role you’re supposed to play if you’re that close to the police department,” she said.

Katcher characterized his opponent as wearing “animosity” toward police almost as a “badge of honor.” Why would police take time to round up offenders of certain crimes when it has been made clear that the prosecutor’s office wouldn’t move forward with them? he asked. “Arlington is going to be a target because we are affluent and we are near a jurisdictional line. There are certain kinds of crimes we cannot afford to be a soft target on – drug dealing, carjacking and other types of violence that’s going to be brought into our county.”