Charges have been dropped in Wise County, Virginia, against 31 individuals as a result of ongoing efforts to restructure law enforcement in the town of Pound.
The dismissals come after the Pound Town Council voted on May 18 to eliminate the town’s Police Department. The vote terminated employment for the town’s police officers and chief — witnesses in criminal cases. The move was made due to budget issues, council members said.
After the vote, Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp asked the town to protect evidence at the Police Department. The town then hired a specialist to conduct an inventory of the evidence, and they hired an interim police chief, Chris Wilcox, to assist.
Slemp said the situation, however, brought some evidence into question.
In a motion to dismiss charges, the prosecutor said he works daily to protect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.
“It is for this reason that I will always exercise my discretion to not pursue criminal charges in appropriate circumstances,” Slemp wrote.
He formally withdrew cases Wednesday against 31 people facing various charges in Pound. Many individuals faced drug charges.
“Given the commonwealth’s burden to hold cases within certain speedy trial deadlines, in addition to other factors, I feel that the most prudent course of action is to allow the independent audit of the town police records to proceed prior to any of these cases being brought to trial,” Slemp said.
Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore approved the motion.
A review of evidence and police equipment continues, as does a Virginia State Police investigation that was requested by Slemp.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is providing police service in Pound.
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