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'There's no true conflict of interest:' Portsmouth prosecutor concerned she'll be taken off monument protest case

Posted at 1:57 PM, Aug 18, 2020

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Portsmouth’s top prosecutor is concerned her office may be taken off the case against several high profile city leaders accused of being involved in the destruction of the city’s Confederate monument back in June.

The Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney office has released a statement on the felony protest warrants that were announced by Police Chief Angela Greene on Monday.

Morales is concerned about being named as a potential material and eyewitness, likely to be called to testify by either the prosecution or defense.

"I was not on scene on June 10th at the monument which raises great concern for me about the potential for conflict of interest," said Morales.

Chief Greene announced that Portsmouth Sen. Louise Lucas, NAACP members, school board members and public defenders were among several felony warrants issued in relation to the June 10 Confederate monument protest where a man was severely injured. This happened after part of a statue fell on him as protesters tried to remove it.

Earlier on that same day during protests, coverings were put on the statue.

If Morales is subpoenaed as a witness, she and her office would likely have a conflict of interest and a special prosecutor outside of Portsmouth would take over the cases.

"I was not present, I am not an eyewitness, and no, I do not feel as though I have a conflict."

Morales says her office will file a motion exclude her as witness so that her office remains on the cases.

Morales is viewed as a progressive prosecutor and is vocal about legal justice reform, but has remained quiet about her thoughts surrounding the monument protest.

It appears there will be a process to determine whether there is a true conflict of interest or whether Morales' office will stay on the case.

"I want to be the one to do the difficult work here because that’s what the citizens elected me to do," said Morales.

As of now, Morales' office says it has not received an investigate report to determine whether charges are appropriate.

Click here to read Chief Greene's entire announcement and to see a list of everyone charged as of Monday.

On Tuesday The Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney office's statement read:

"After having received a copy of several felony arrest warrants and a probable cause summary, our office was made aware that the Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Portsmouth was listed as a witness, which could effectively create a conflict of interest and prohibit the Commonwealth Attorney from being involved in a job she was elected, by the citizens of this city, to do. In this probable cause summary, Mrs. Morales is identified as a “potential material and eyewitness… likely to be called to testify by either the prosecution or defense”. If served with a subpoena, it is our office’s intent to file a motion a quash the subpoena, as Mrs. Morales was not on scene to be an eyewitness to any of the matters listed. If that motion is denied and a special prosecutor is sought, it removes the ability of this Commonwealth Attorney from acting and places the matters in the hands of a special prosecutor who is not accountable to this city.

As indicated in our July 8, 2020, media release, the Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney’s office does not contain an intake unit. Warrants are obtained when complaining witnesses, including law enforcement, render probable cause to a magistrate who may issue a charging instrument. This office does not take part in this process. A police officer swearing information, under oath, to a magistrate to obtain warrants is the traditional process frequently utilized by the Portsmouth Police within the Portsmouth Police Department.

This office makes prosecutorial determination when indictments are requested upon receipt of complete investigative results. As it relates to the alleged events that occurred on June 10, 2020, our office released a statement on July 8, 2020, that we had not received such results and as of today, August 18, 2020, has still received no such investigative results. The Portsmouth Police Department chose their traditional process of securing warrants, albeit over two months after the alleged events, in lieu of submitting complete investigative results to this office.

We call for a fair and equitable process for all involved."