A former Oakton High School student is seeking a new trial in her lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board involving a sexual assault that occurred on a school band trip in 2017.
Attorneys representing the plaintiff, known as Jane Doe, and the school board delivered oral arguments to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remotely on Monday (Jan. 25).
According to Public Justice, the nonprofit representing the plaintiff and her family, Jane Doe — then a junior — and another bandmate — then a senior — were sitting next to each other on a bus when he touched her without her consent.
Filed in 2018, the nonprofit’s original complaint alleged that administrators and employees failed to take meaningful and appropriate action. According to the complaint, administrators threatened to discipline her and discouraged her from reporting the assault to police or taking legal action.
In August 2019, a jury with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria found that Jane Doe was sexually harassed and that the experience negatively impacted her education. But the jury did not find the Fairfax County School Board could be held liable for the deprivation of her education as a result of her assault.
The jury determined that the school board did not have “actual knowledge” about the assault, though one juror later said there was confusion over the term’s definition. As a result, the jury did not discuss the final question in the case, which asked whether the school board acted with deliberate indifference toward Doe’s complaint.
FCPS’s liability, which appears to hinge on the extent to which school officials knew an assault had taken place and whether they took sufficient action to address the plaintiff’s concerns, is now being relitigated.
“There may be hard actual knowledge cases, but this isn’t one of them. This family did all they could to put the school on notice,” Public Justice attorney Alexandra Brodsky said in her argument on Monday. “This court should remand a new trial so a jury can reach, for the first time, the question of whether the school did enough.”
Stuart Raphael, the attorney for the school board, argued that the board did not have “actual knowledge” because Doe — in a conversation with Fairfax County Public Schools Director of Student Services Jennifer Hogan — did not describe her experience as sexual assault or nonconsensual. He added that Doe was “incredulous” when another administrator asked if she would press charges.
He argued that these facts, as well as inconsistencies between the stories that reached administrators, support the jury’s initial finding that the school board had no “actual knowledge” of the sexual assault.
“It cannot be that a school administrator’s failure to understand what constitutes sexual harassment is an absolute bar to liability,” Brodsky said. “That’s why this court and others have treated a failure to categorize reports of sexual harassment as evidence of a deficient response.”
Fairfax County Teacher Arrested for Sexual Assaults of Student — “A Fairfax County Public Schools teacher is in custody for sexually assaulting a student more than twenty years ago. Detectives assigned to our Major Crimes Bureau Child Abuse Squad recently learned of the unlawful sexual contact and began an investigation. Last night, detectives arrested Marc Damon Cheatham, 51, of Woodbridge.“ [FCPD]
Repairs to Lake Anne Fountain Completed — Reston Association has completed repairs to Lake Anne Fountain at Lake Anne Plaza. Residents can expect to see the lights function on schedule. [RA]
CORE Foundation Celebrates 15 Years — “CORE Foundation in Reston, “Helping Others Be the Change for 15 Years,” held its MASKerade and Community Hero Awards Saturday evening, Jan. 16. Celebrating the nonprofit organization’s 15th anniversary, co-hosts Doug Bushée, founder and Chairman of the Board, and Taralyn Tharp Kohler, Executive Director, welcomed guests and honorees to the virtual event. “
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Updated at 3;40 p.m. on Friday — Local police have arrested a 29-year-old man in connection with a series of assaults and robberies that happened in the police districts of Fair Oaks and Reston.
Gerald Brevard III was arrested and charged with burglary and possession of burglarious tools, according to a statement by FCPD released today.
Police made the arrest after Brevard III was found attempting to break into a home on the 13900 block of Mansarde Avenue in Herndon. He was also charged with abduction in relation to an assault in Reston. Other charges are pending.
On Nov. 27, a woman was assaulted in the hallway of a hotel on the 13400 block of Sunrise Valley Drive.
In another incident on Dec. 3, police believe a man entered an apartment complex on the 13500 block of Virginia Randolph Avenue and robbed a woman at gunpoint.
That same day, police believe a man hit a woman as she was walking near the intersection of Centreville Road and Woodland Park Road. The suspect allegedly assaulted the woman and robbed her. She was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.
Detectives believe the offender in the above incidents is the same and is “active” in the area.
Photo via FCPD
The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating three sexual assaults that happened over the last two weeks, including two incidents in Reston and Herndon.
In all the incidents, the suspect was described as a light-skinned Black or Hispanic male between 5’10” and 6′, police said. Police believe the man is in his 20s to early 30s.
In the first incident on Nov. 27 around 7:30 p.m., a man pushed a woman against a wall and assault her in the hallway of a hotel on the 13400 block of Sunrise Valley Drive. She suffered minor injuries and was able to call for help and run away.
In a separate incident on Dec. 3 around 11:45 p.m., a man assaulted a woman as she was walked near the intersection of Centreville Road and Woodland Park Road. Police believe the man hit her with an object and sexually assaulted her. She was treated in a hospital for injuries.
In Ashburn, a man took personal property from a woman while she was standing in the common area of an apartment complex of 13500 block of Virginia Randolph Road on Dec. 3.
It’s possible the incidents may be connected, according to FCPD.
Here’s more from FCPD on how to submit information about any of the above incidents:
Detectives are asking anyone with information about these events or who may be able to provide suspect information to please call our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Please provide your contact information in the tip if you would like to be contacted by a detective. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest. For ongoing updates, please read our blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @FairfaxCountyPD
Photo via FCPD
An Arlington man has been charged in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a Reston-based hospice patient, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.
An 80-year-old Reston man told his family members that he woke up to 57 year-old Nizhamuding Jureti performing a sexual act on him in October, police said. The allegations were made on Nov. 11 and Jureti was arrested on Nov. 20 with one count of forcible sodomy.
Jureti worked for a Fairfax-based home care services company called Care With LOVE. He is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Anyone with information about this case or any other possible cases of inappropriate contact should contact FCPD using the following methods:
Please call our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.
Photo via FCPD
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what some local advocates and law enforcement officials are calling a pandemic within a pandemic for domestic violence victims.
In Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Police Department reported a slight uptick in calls related to domestic abuse. Following statewide orders to remain at home when possible, the average number of monthly calls jumped from 158 in February to 191 in April.
Between then and July, that number remained near the upper 190s, with a high of 200 calls in July and 200 calls in September, according to FCPD data released to Reston Now.
More victims are coming forward with serious injuries than before the pandemic, particularly strangulation attempts and the types of weapons used.
Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have also presented new challenges for police officers who cannot have face-to-face contact with victims.
“It has been stressed from the very beginning of the pandemic to be aware of domestic issues that arise from long hours confined in a home,” FCPD Sergeant Hudson Bull said.
“Officers adapted to the new safeguards but still respond to calls in progress utilizing personal protective equipment and social distancing to ensure victims of crime are safe,” he added.
The Fairfax County Department of Family Services reported a 28 percent increase in the number of monthly calls to the county’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline. Since then, the numbers have stabilized, according to Angela Yeboah, a project coordinator for the department’s domestic violence action center.
“Emotional and psychological abuse also has been used as a tactic to keep victims in the home and fearful that if they leave, they will have limited housing and economic options due to the pandemic,” she said.
But at Shelter House, Inc., a Reston-based nonprofit organization that offers services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence, advocates have seen a different story.
The nonprofit organization reports a significant decrease in the number of calls since the pandemic began — a silence that concerned many service providers.
“We believe that this initial decrease was a direct result of stay-at-home orders and victims not being able to find safety from their abusive partner in order to reach out for help,” said Terrace Molina, the organization’s marketing and communications manager.
Now, Shelter House, Inc. is seeing case counts return to their previous levels. But the type of abuse is more severe as more victims enter the shelter. More serious injuries were also reported, Molina said.
She says victims need our support “now more than ever.”
High rates of unemployment and added pressures of children attending school virtually have produced more stressors for victims.
“For victims who are in our emergency shelter or other programs, maintaining employment has been a challenge, particularly while also tending to the needs of children who are attending school virtually,” she said
Advocates hope to bring more awareness about the issue in light of domestic violence month, which happens in October.
Shelter House operates the county’s only 24/7 emergency hotline for victims of domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking. Individuals in need of help can call 703-435-4940. A domestic violence detective and a victim services specialist are also assigned to each district station. Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.
Photo courtesy Shelter House
Fairfax County Public Schools must now wait until a formal grievance process has concluded to impose discipline against students and employees found to have committed sexual harassment or assault.
With three members abstaining and one not present, the Fairfax County School Board voted 7-1 on Sept. 17 to amend the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities book, which contains the district’s student conduct policies, to specify that discipline in Title IX cases cannot be dealt until the completion of the grievance process, including any appeals.
The board also agreed to discuss its new sexual harassment regulations further at a future work session to potentially bolster protections for both people who file complaints and those subject to the discipline process.
Necessitated by new federal rules regarding Title IX cases, which concern sexual and gender-based discrimination, the Student Rights and Responsibilities amendment is an extension of a new district regulation that dictates how Fairfax County schools will handle sexual harassment complaints.
Effective as of Aug. 26, Regulation 2118 establishes a separate process for reporting, responding to, and resolving sexual harassment complaints than the one used for other offenses, such as drug use and even sexual misconduct that does not meet the definition of harassment.
Where other potential student conduct violations are generally addressed by school principals, formal complaints of sexual harassment will be reviewed by Title IX investigators in the FCPS Office of Equity and Employee Relations, and hearing officers under the superintendent are now responsible for determining whether a complaint is founded and what discipline to impose.
All appeals go to the school board’s appeals committee except for an appeal of a complaint’s dismissal, which would be heard by the district’s deputy assistant superintendent.
Under Regulation 2118, potential disciplinary consequences for sexual harassment and related offenses, including assault, stalking and dating violence or domestic violence, can include expulsion, reassignment, long-term suspension of more than 10 school days, and exclusion from school-sponsored activities.
The new FCPS regulation also requires that any school employee who witnesses or receives a report of sexual harassment report it to their principal or assistant principal. Students and parents are expected to report sexual harassment to the principal or assistant principal, but they can also go directly to the district’s Title IX coordinator.
Upon receiving a report of sexual harassment, a school principal is obligated to contact the complainant to offer options for supportive measures, which range from counseling and seating, locker, or bus reassignments to a no-contact order and scheduling and class changes, and explain the process for filing a formal complaint if they choose.
Principals and other school-based administrators are not involved in the formal grievance process, FCPS assistant division counsel Ellen Kennedy told the school board at its Sept. 17 meeting.
These new procedures bring the Fairfax County public school system in compliance with a new Title IX rule that was issued by the U.S. Department of Education on May 6 and took full effect on Aug. 14.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities. It has been regularly used to combat sexual assault and harassment in schools and colleges, but the Education Department’s new rule represents the first time that purpose has been cemented with a legally enforceable regulation.
While U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos heralded the new rule as a historic step to protect students’ safety and due process rights, sexual assault survivors’ advocacy groups say that it will discourage victims from reporting harassment, shield schools from liability, and make it more difficult to hold perpetrators accountable, according to Inside Higher Education.
Attorneys general from 18 states, including Virginia, are seeking to have the Title IX regulations declared unlawful in a federal lawsuit that was originally filed on June 4. On Aug. 10, a district judge in New York denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction to prevent the new rule from taking effect as scheduled on Aug. 14.
Though one of the most-criticized changes — a requirement that officials hold live hearings of sexual assault cases with cross-examinations of both parties — applies just to universities and colleges, Fairfax County school board members made their objections to the new Title IX rule clear even as they passed an amendment to align the district’s policies with federal regulations.
“Broadly speaking, it is the accused who are getting the benefit of the Department of Education’s changes here, and it is the accusers who are being hung out to dry,” Providence District representative Karl Frisch said.
Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen framed her frustrations with the new Title IX regulations through her own experience of being sexually assaulted when she was in sixth grade, an incident that was never formally reported or investigated.
While she believes the Education Department’s new regulations make the process more difficult for people who report sexual harassment, Cohen says the proposed Student Rights and Regulations amendment is the only option currently available to hold people who violate sexual harassment policies accountable.
“It’s crummy, but there has to be something to protect the people who have been sexually assaulted and sexually harassed, our staff, our students, period,” Cohen said. “We have an obligation to those kids, and without this [amendment], there is no recourse for them.”
In addition to altering the Title IX reporting, investigation, and disciplinary procedures used by both K-12 and higher education institutions, the Title IX Final Rule redefines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal educational access.”
That sets a higher bar for what constitutes sexual harassment than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used by the Obama administration, though sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence allegations do not need to meet the “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” threshold.
The Final Rule also directs elementary and secondary schools to require all employees to report notices of sexual harassment and have the investigation of a complaint and the determination of whether the accused student is responsible be conducted by different people.
Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin voted against adopting the amendment. Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Abrar Omeish, and Karen Keys-Gamarra, the board’s three at-large members, abstained after raising concerns about a lack of flexibility for handling Title IX cases based on students’ varying needs or circumstances.
Regulation 2118 and the accompanying SR&R amendment lay out specific, systemwide steps for handling sexual harassment complaints. That reduces the risk of policies being applied inconsistently based on the judgment of individual schools and administrators, but the documents also do not differentiate cases based on factors like age, for instance, prescribing mostly uniform reporting and investigation procedures and disciplinary responses for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Board members also worried that these regulations could contribute to existing inequities in student discipline, which tends to be applied disproportionately to students of color and students with disabilities.
“This is a problem that I’m very worried about, given many of our students with disabilities who have needs in the social skills area: understanding, reading body cues, body language,” Sizemore Heizer said. “There’s a lot of direct instruction that we need to teach our students with disabilities around consent, around reacting to body language.”
When asked if the board could postpone voting for a public work session or not adopt new Title IX discipline guidance, FCPS division counsel John Foster stated that not complying with federal regulations could put the district at risk of legal action and a loss of federal funding, and the Student Rights and Responsibilities amendment is necessary to determine sanctions for students who engage in sexual harassment.
“If we don’t have a process in place, we’re going to have students who potentially engage in misconduct and don’t face any consequences for it,” Foster said. “That’s just a bad place, I think, for the school system to be and also a bad place for accusers to be.”
The Herndon Police Department announced an arrest in a 2019 sexual assault case yesterday (Tuesday).
Police arrested a 15-year-old boy for sexual assault on Saturday, Jan 18. The incident happened on Oct. 17 on the 600 block of Dulles Park Court, according to authorities.
The suspect is believed to have had sexual contact with a minor that he knew.
Due to privacy restrictions for minors, no other information about the incident was made public.
A Herndon man was arrested in connection with a robbery of a home on the 1100 block of Casper Drive in Herndon earlier this month.
Police believe Jose Mendoza Banegas, 20, broke into the home and stole an undisclosed amount of cash and other items of value.
The Herndon Police Department indicated that the suspect entered the home through a basement window sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 2. Banegas was arrested on Dec. 12.
In a separate incident, Jose Alfredo Ardon Castillo, 47, of Herndon, was arrested in connection with the sexual battery of an individual known to him on Dec 13.
On Dec. 14, Ermes Urbano Castillo, 47, of Herndon was also arrested for the aggravated assault of a victim known to him. Both men were taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention enter where they were held without bond.
An attempted burglary was also reported at a business on the 1200 block of Old Heights Road in Herndon. No arrest was made in connection with the Dec. 11 incident.
The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District Station also reported the following minor incidents in recent days:
2100 block of Astoria Circle, cash from location
1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, cell phone from location
2500 block of Farmcrest Drive, gun from vehicle
2400 block of Masons Ferry Drive, property from vehicle
1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, wallet from location
12900 block of Centre Park Circle, license plates from vehicle
1500 block of Chatman Colony Court, package from front steps
1800 block of Jonathan Way, cash from residence
11800 block of Sunrise Valley Drive, wallet from location
11700 block Sunrise Valley Drive, luggage and computers from vehicle
12100 block of Sunset Hills Road, merchandise from business
A Clifton-based priest has admitted to sexual abuse of a minor at Reston church.
According to a release by the Arlington Diocese, Father Christopher Mould told the Bishop of Arlington, Michael Burbridge that he had sexual contact with a minor between 1992 and 1995 at Saint Thomas à Becket Catholic Church in Reston. Mould was a parochial vicar at the time.
The release stated Burbridge reported the incident to the Fairfax County Police Department.
Here’s more from Bishop Burbridge:
Father Mould has expressed deep contrition for his actions, and he accepts that there will be serious and severe consequences for them.
The Diocese of Arlington is fully committed to a zero-tolerance policy related to sexual abuse of minors. Any such incident is a grave sin and a profound betrayal of trust. I express my heartfelt regret to the individual who was harmed by Father Mould’s actions. As is the case with any instance of sexual abuse of a minor, I have ensured that the counseling services of our Victim Assistance Coordinator are available to anyone who may need them.
The Diocese encourages anyone who knows of any misconduct or abuse on the part of any cleric or employee of the Diocese to report it to the Virginia Attorney General hotline (VirginiaClergyHotline.com) and local police, and also to contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (703) 841-2530.
I realize that this information is difficult for you to receive. While justice and a commitment to the protection of children and young people make these actions prudent and necessary, it also brings me sadness to know the impact they have on your community.
Mould has since resigned as Pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Church and currently holds no church office. He is also barred from practicing priesthood, according to a statement by the Diocese.
Fairfax County to Seek Flood Recovery Funds — “At its July 16 meeting, the county’s Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency for Fairfax County as a result of the July 8 torrential rainstorm that caused substantial damage to both public and private property. The heavy rains caused several county closures, numerous road closures, damage to homes, businesses, roads and dams as well as multiple rescues from our fire and rescue personnel of motorists stranded in flooded roadways.” [Fairfax News]
Previous Charges for Sex Offender in Custody for Assault in Reston — Gregg MacDonald reports that the suspect arrested in connection with a June 11 sexual assault was originally convicted of a sex crime in Greenville, S.C. in 2006. He is listed as wanted in the Virginia State Police Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. [Fairfax County Times]
Free Yoga on Reston Station Plaza Today — Beloved Yoga hosts a free yoga session for all at Reston Station Plaza today from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Yoga sessions continue throughout the summer. Attendees should bring water, a mat and a “zen-ready mind,” according to event organizers. [Reston Station]
Photo by vantagehill/Flickr
The trial began earlier this week for Jude Lovchik, charged with abduction and sodomy.
In 1995, four roommates in Reston were held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted. The case had gone cold until Lovchik’s ex-wife told Arlington County police that Lovchik had confessed the actions to her and had her recreate the scenes.
According to the Washington Post, the victims of the assault testified during the opening day of the trial. The women said their attacker had forced the women to perform sexual acts on each other and on him, then worked meticulously to cover his tracks.
One woman testified that she was made to drink Gatorade to remove the evidence from her mouth and that he vacuumed the bedroom where the assault occurred. After going through their address book, the women said the attacker also threatened to kill their friends and family if they reported the assault.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jessica Greis-Edwardson, who said DNA swabs from Lovchik matched biological material found in the mouth of one of the victims.
But Fairfax County Public Defender Dawn Butorac said the evidence tying Lovchik to the crime was flimsy, saying there were inconsistencies in the DNA evidence and noting that Lovchick’s ex-wife, who was in the middle of the divorce when she reported Lovchick’s confession, had motive to lie.
Lovchik faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, including abduction and sodomy. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Photo via Marion County Jail
A man accused of a series of sexual assaults across Fairfax in the 90’s, including four women in Reston, is scheduled to go to trial this Monday (Dec. 3).
Jude Lovchik is charged with a series of felonies including multiple counts of abduction, sodomy, robbery and firearms offenses.
While Lovchik is being investigated for other assaults in Fairfax and Prince William counties, his charges stem from a 1995 assault where Lovchik is alleged to have climbed onto the balcony of an apartment building and subseqently tied up, blindfolded and sexually assaulted four roommates.
According to the Washington Post, the break in the cold case came when Lovchik’s wife went to the Arlington Police after she said Lovchik assaulted her during their divorce. She also told the police that Lovchik had told her about his string of assaults throughout Fairfax in the early 1990’s and had her recreate the sexual assault scenes for him. Police said Lovchik’s wife provided information about the case that had not been disclosed to the public.
After Lovchik’s wife spoke with the police in early 2017, his home was placed under surveilence until DNA was collected from trash that police say was connected to DNA collected from the Reston assault.
Lovchik moved to Florida in 2017, but was arrested in October and returned to Vriginia, where he is currently being housed in the Fairfax County jail.
Photo via Marion County Jail
Marlow Mikassas Afshartous, 40, who also goes by the name Marlow Talley, was arrested Aug. 3, 2013, and charged with sexual assault and solicitation of child pornography.
Afshartous coached youth basketball for more than 12 years at Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling, the former Hoop Magic in Chantilly, and Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Afshartous in June 2013 and was able to arrest him with assistance from the Fairfax County Police Department.
According to previous court testimony, the abuse of a 12-year-old girl took place from April to November 2012 at three locations: Claude Moore Recreation Center; a church off Evergreen Mills Road; and in Fairfax County at an outdoor basketball court on Braddock Road.
The victim testified to police that Afshartous molested her on multiple occasions. Investigators also retrieved approximately 8,600 text and email messages between the vistim nd Afshartous.
In addition to the 15-year prison sentence, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge J. Howell Brown also gave Afshartous an indefinite probation sentence.
Once he’s released from prison, Afshartous must register as a sex offender and have no unsupervised contact with children.
Photo: Marlow Mikassas Afshartous/Courtesy Loudoun Commonwealth Attorney’s Office