Plea-bargained child molesters
As a Henrico county prosecutor in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gilmore opted for plea bargains or soft sentencing in thirty-five sex offender cases, allowing the defendants to be released out on the streets. The Virginian-Pilot laid out the shocking details of three of the cases on 10/20/2007:
The 1992 case against the uncle who was indicted on two counts of aggravated sexual battery on two of his three nieces. He received a 14-year suspended sentence and served 11 months in jail, according to Henrico County court records. (The uncle, now 48, is not being named because it could identify the victims.)
. . .
A 1989 case against Peter William George, then 55, who pleaded guilty to charges that he had exposed himself to and had oral sex with an 8-year-old girl. Under a plea agreement, he received a 25-year suspended prison sentence and was ordered to serve 90 days in jail.
. . .
The 1990 case against [Earl Andrew] Collins, now 40, who received 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to taking indecent liberties with a 10-year-old girl his wife was taking care of. Collins originally was indicted on two counts: exposing himself to a child and sexually abusing her by licking and spanking her buttocks.
Don Beyer, who ran against Gilmore in the 1997 governor's race, identified 100 cases involving sex offenders during Gilmore's six-year tenure in the prosecutor's office. Of the thirty-five they focused on, "34 featured either plea agreements or sentences that called for less than one year of actual jail time. The 35th case went to trial. Prosecutors lost. The defendant, according to the Beyer campaign, was convicted of raping an 8-year-old six years later," reported the Virginian-Pilot. (Virginian-Pilot, October 20, 1997)
The Pat Robertson Connection
While serving as Virginia's Attorney General in 1997, Gilmore was asked by Democrats to investigate the shady bookkeeping practices of televangelist and Christian right leader Pat Robertson. Robertson was accused of mixing funds from his charity Operation Blessing and his diamond mining ventures in Zaire. Gilmore declined to investigate, and that same year Robertson donated $50,000 to Gilmore gubernatorial election campaign. Robertson had previously donated $50,000 to Gilmore's 1993 run for attorney general. Gilmore eventually turned the case over to the Department of Agriculture, who in turn asked for the help of the attorney general, Gilmore's replacement, Mark Earley. The Virginian-Pilot had the story on 10/1/1998:
State officials won't say what a yearlong investigation has revealed about the relationship between Pat Robertson's international charity and his ill-fated diamond mining venture in Africa. Airplanes belonging to Operation Blessing, the religious broadcaster's tax-exempt humanitarian organization, were used almost exclusively to support his for-profit diamond operation, two pilots who flew the planes told The Virginian-Pilot last year.
Earley's office issued a report in June of 1999 that admonished Robertson for not keeping finances straight between the two operations but essentially let him off the hook. (Earley had received $35,000 of campaign contributions from Robertson in 1997.)
Used Leverage as Attorney General to Help Campaign Contributors
Virginia pork producer and GOP campaign contributor Smithfield Foods Inc. allowed slaughterhouse runoff to pollute Virginia's Pagan river. Smithfield Chairman Joseph Luter gave $125,000 to the state GOP in 1995. Gilmore failed to press charges as Virginia's attorney general until after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed charges in 1996. The state dropped the case before trial, but the EPA went on to win a $12.6 million fine against Smithfield. Gilmore also received $184,000 in campaign contributions from tobacco companies. In October of 1996, he filed a brief in support of the tobacco industry's challenge to federal regulations restricting sales and marketing of cigarettes to minors. (Washington Post, 10/29/1997)
Gilmore has taken a hard-line stance against abortion, saying that he believes the practice should be outlawed after twelve weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. Gilmore also told a Richmond television station that he believed spousal consent laws requiring a wife to tell her husband before she has an abortion merit serious consideration. As governor, Gilmore signed a law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion. (Washington Post, 10/17/1997)
Stepped into Right-to-Life Case
During the Terri Schiavo debacle, few commentators pointed out that it was a near reply of a Virginia case that took place during the late 1990s -- and that time, the meddling zealot was Jim Gilmore. In 1995, the forty-four-year-old broadcaster Hugh Finn was injured in a car accident, and he stayed in a coma for more than three years. When his wife Michele Finn decided to take him off life support, Finn's family opposed the decision and enlisted the help of conservative Christian representatives in Virginia to oppose the decision. Right-to-life groups began to picket the nursing home, and Gov. Gilmore decided it was time to step in--by suing the grieving wife:
After the judge reaffirmed his order, Gilmore jumped in, bringing suit against Michele Finn under an obscure statute giving the governor authority to represent Virginia residents in need of protection. His suit charged that terminating life support was euthanasia. A mere 21/2 hours after receiving Gilmore's appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected this claim, ruling that disconnecting feeding tubes "merely permits the natural process of dying and is not mercy killing or euthanasia."
(Washington Post Magazine, August 15, 1999)