LEESBURG, Va. (CN) — A county attorney accused Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin of putting politics before justice after the Republican pardoned a polarizing father who became a face for the “parents’ rights” movement in education. Scott Smith, the father, says his pardon shows that people should be able to defend their children.
Youngkin granted a full pardon on Friday to Smith, the father of a teenage girl sexually assaulted in a school bathroom in 2021. Smith was appealing his conviction for disorderly conduct following a confrontation at a school board meeting.
Rather than expel the assailant, the student was transferred to another Loudoun County public school, where he allegedly committed another assault.
"This political stunt by Governor Youngkin is an unprecedented and inappropriate intervention into an active legal case," Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj said in a statement. "He chose to interfere in the legal process, but not for justice but for political gain."
Smith said, “It is not how I wanted it,” in a phone interview. “I wanted to be able to go to court and be vindicated in court. That is what our justice system is for, but our justice system is so weaponized.”
Coinciding with the assaults, the school board had a public meeting to discuss a progressive bathroom policy that allowed students to choose which bathroom they used based on their identified gender, rather than sex. According to one of Smith’s lawyers, Bill Stanley of the Stanley Law Group, Smith attended the meeting not to speak but to observe.
When asked directly whether rapes had occurred in school bathrooms, former Superintendent Scott Ziegler denied the claims, leading to outrage among parents in the audience.
After a brief recess, Smith was confronted by an activist who Stanley said called Smith's family scum before Smith turned to face the woman, balled up a fist and cursed at her.
The gesture led to a nearby police officer tackling Smith to the floor and eventually arresting him for the perceived threat of violence.
Initially charged and convicted of obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct in a district court, Smith's attorneys, Stanley and Mike Joynes of Joynes and Gaidies, successfully argued for dismissing the obstruction charge during pre-trial hearings in circuit court.
The pair also successfully recused Democrat Biberaj from further prosecution of Smith due to what they portrayed as bias against him and other parents questioning the bathroom policy.
“The amount of money that's been spent on this misdemeanor charge is mind-boggling,” Smith said. “This was never about my arrest; this was about the right to defend your family peacefully.”
All that remained for the court to decide was Smith's disorderly conduct charge, which was set for trial starting Sept. 25.
Biberaj criticized the timing of Youngkin's pardon as early voting for the coming fall elections, where Biberaj is up for reelection, is set to begin.
"With early voting less than two weeks away, the governor's decision to issue the pardon is an intentional attempt to influence the elections," Biberaj said. "It is deeply disappointing that Governor Youngkin continues to play politics and try to divide Loudoun County."
The incident energized Virginia Republicans like Youngkin, campaigning on parents' rights and school safety, leading to record voter turnout in 2021 and Virginia's first Republican governor since 2014. Youngkin is again capitalizing on the incident as he appeared on Fox News Sunday with Shannon Bream to tout the pardon.
"We righted a wrong, and he should have never been prosecuted," Youngkin told Bream. "This was a dad standing up for his daughter, and just to remind everyone, his daughter had been sexually assaulted in the bathroom of a school, and no one was doing anything about it."
Mirroring language former President Donald Trump is using against the Justice Department to defend his innocence in four indictments, Smith thanked Youngkin for saving him from a potentially unfair trial.
“Unfortunately, this became so political on both sides that there was just no way that this was going to work out anytime soon in my favor,” Scott said. “The pardon that we finally negotiated worked out.”
Scott’s daughter got her GED and graduated early following the assault.
“It’s been a rough couple of years,” Scott said. “It just affected everything, but the good news is that we are a very strong family and a very tight family.”
Stanley said they intend to file an action against the school board for federal Title IX violations regarding the assault and are exploring suing the elected officials for malicious prosecution.
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