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Commonwealth's Attorney

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  • Candidate picture

    Josh Cumbow
    (Dem)

  • Candidate picture

    Nicole Price
    (Rep)

Biographical Information

What are the talents you bring to the office of Commonwealth Attorney of Washington County? What do you think is the most difficult aspect of the job of Commonwealth Attorney?

In the last four years, has the Washington County criminal case load increased or decreased? Approximately how many cases does each assistant commonwealth attorney prosecute each year?

What can be done to reduce the use of meth and other drugs in the county?

As of 2017, 49 of 139 Virginia circuit courts have drug treatment courts, which get funding from the federal government. Do you agree with the rationale for them? If so, how could they be improved?

Besides drug courts, what other methods of alternative sentencing do you use or support?

There will probably be a referendum on the November ballot regarding the Washington County Courthouse. Supervisors had to choose which option would be on that referendum by the end of July. (More information is on the website washcovacourthouse.com.) Since the Commonwealth's Attorney has offices in the courthouse, comment on the problems of the current building. What is most needed in a renovated or new courthouse?

Campaign Phone (276) 676-6291
Education Abingdon H. S., Virginia Tech, and T.C. Williams School of Law at U. of Richmond
Experience Opened law practice in 2002 Elected Commonwealth's Attorney in 20015
Family He and Leslie have 2 grade school children. He is the son of teachers Don and Sandy Cumbow.
One of the talents I bring to being commonwealth's attorney is that I am a team player. While the commonwealth's attorney has the final say in how cases are disposed of, I listen to the input given by law enforcement and victims. Sometimes my decision might be met with disagreement but I have the confidence to accept responsibility for my final decision. Another talent I bring to the office is related to my thirteen years of being successful in private practice. I handled many difficult criminal cases as a defense attorney. That experience on the other side helps me to assess the strengths and weaknesses of cases and offer guidance to my assistant commonwealth's attorneys as to what the defense attorney may try to argue in cases. Also, I have had the opportunity to try several jury trials, both as a defense attorney and as commonwealth's attorney. Not many attorneys are willing to try cases anymore. However, I am. As commonwealth's attorney I have tried six jury trials, including two first degree murder cases, and obtained convictions in each one. I have the confidence, experience, and skill to try cases to a jury when necessary. The most difficult aspect of the job of commonwealth's attorney is sometimes having to be an advocate for a criminal justice system that works far too slow for many victims.
The Washington County criminal case load has increased over the last four years in circuit court, general district court and juvenile & domestic relations court. Cases are divided as follows: On new felony cases, I and three of my assistants equally divide the cases. I handle most of the higher profile cases. We practice vertical prosecution which means that each attorney follows that case from general district court to its conclusion in circuit court. One of my assistants handles most of the traffic and misdemeanor docket, as well as collection of fines and costs. My remaining assistant handles the juvenile & domestic relations court docket. In cases in that court that have adult felony defendants, that attorney practices vertical prosecution and sees the case to its conclusion in circuit court. Felony probation violations are usually handled by the attorney that previously worked on the case.
This is the million dollar question. We have to address this issue from multiple angles. What I have done is help expand drug court to reduce recidivism rates and address addiction issues with some of our non-violent defendants. I have also signed on to the Holston River Task Force to use resources from multiple jurisdictions to go after drug dealers. The drug issue must also involve the community. I have been instrumental in creating a drug court advisory committee consisting of various interested community leaders. I have participated in the Washington County Prevention Coalition to address issues such as substance abuse among college students and supported their drug take back programs where people can safely throw away their prescription medication rather than leaving it in a medicine cabinet. I also support the community watch program through the Washington County Sheriff's Office. Community policing is vital to give information and leads to law enforcement personnel so that drug offenders can be prosecuted.
I agree with the rationale of the drug court program. One of my major achievements is to help expand Washington County's drug court program. Statistics show very few drug court graduates go on to receive new criminal charges. I also support drug court programs because they significantly reduce the costs of incarceration that are paid by taxpayers. Drug court programs are pennies on the dollar versus incarceration. The drug court model is very much a work in progress that is tweaked as new information becomes available. One way drug court could be improved is to help participants with housing. Many participants do not come from a stable environment and the only housing available to them is with old acquaintances. They need a clean break and a fresh start to be able to graduate the program.
I support the CCAP Program through the Department of Corrections. CCAP is the Community Corrections Alternative Program. It is typically forty-two to forty-eight weeks in length and it is in a secured Department of Corrections facility. It includes a number of programs that include drug screening, substance abuse programming, vocational training, literacy classes, behavioral therapy, etc. It is for non-violent felony offenders. I also support private rehabilitation programs, including faith-based programs. These programs have to be located in the Commonwealth of Virginia so probation can monitor them. The defendant must be able to pay for the program and the leg-work for getting admitted into the program must be done by the defendant and the defense attorney. I am often willing to at least consider alternate sentencing on non-violent and non-sexual offenses.
From my perspective the problem that most needs to be addressed is overcrowding in the holding cell areas. When we have busy criminal court dockets the holding area is not safe because so many inmates are confined in a very small space. Some of the offices in the courthouse are overcrowded. However, I am happy with the space and size of the commonwealth's attorney's office. There can be a parking issue on the busiest of court days. It is also my understanding that there are mold issues in some areas of the courthouse.
Campaign Phone (276) 628-1505
Education BA & JD, Univ of Kentucky. Specialized prosecutor training: Trial Advocacy, Legal/Mental Health Partners Collaboration, Chief Prosecutor Exec. Training, Drug Investigation/Prosecution, Homicide School
Experience Prosecutor for 13 years & served on Washington Co Board of Supervisors. Tried cases to judges & juries from misdemeanors to capital murder. Trained prosecutors & police officers for the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Served as 9th District rep on VA Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys.
Family Married 27 years to an Abingdon son. Our three children attend Washington County public schools.
I have proved myself to be the most qualified candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney, and I achieved great things for Washington County in just four years. I have devoted most of my career to being a prosecutor, and my track record of the last 20 years practicing criminal law is one of success inside the courtroom and as manager of a public office and public monies. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I fulfilled every one of the very specific campaign pledges I made to voters, including reducing the office’s reliance on local tax dollars. I received a portion of the Virginia Attorney General’s settlement from Abbott Labs for the benefit of Washington County, but my opponent's inaction required him to return the money. I stood up for the people of Washington County when powerful or well-connected people violated criminal laws, and I have received political consequences from them and from their friends for doing so. Some might say that means it is one of the more difficult parts of the job. However, no one is above the law, so I do not regret holding “important” people accountable in the same way as average citizens are held accountable. Impartiality and fairness are fundamental to our system of justice and should be reflected in both the charging decisions and the outcomes of the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney. Voters should tolerate nothing less in their Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Washington County Commonwealth’s Attorney felony workload data generated by the Supreme Court and published by the Commonwealth of Virginia shows a decrease when comparing my opponent’s most recent year to my most recent year. When I took office in 2012, the criminal caseload in Washington County included a backlog of uncharged and/or untried cases, including five murders. I assembled a team of experienced prosecutors and staff, and together we tackled the backlog while keeping up with the current caseload. My opponent inherited no backlog. Further, I used existing budget and forfeiture monies to implement an electronic case management system and to expand our office space (by renovating vacant Chamber of Commerce offices) which increased efficiency and productivity. In order to improve per-attorney caseload, I established the delinquent fines and fees collections program in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. That program enabled hiring an additional attorney without needing new funding from the County or State. I am the person who petitioned and appeared before the State Compensation Board to increase state funding for prosecutor staff, and I received a state budget increase. In 2015, I was awarded a new state-funded position to assist our Victim-Witness Director which position started after I left office. Additional state-funded attorneys and support staff have come to the office as a result of my initiative and dedication toward this important goal.
Aggressive prosecution is necessary to combat drugs in our county. Our most intensive efforts must be targeted at offenders who occupy the “supply” side of the equation including doctors and pharmacies involved in improper prescribing practices. While “users” must be held accountable too when they break the law, holding them responsible for their actions should be paired with opportunities for drug treatment. Thus, it is imperative to make drug treatment programs much more widely available to the user-type offender.

Since Washington County is located on I-81 near Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia, it is easily accessible to those trafficking in methamphetamine and other illegal and dangerous drugs. Regional, not just local, coordination of law enforcement efforts is vital. Many of the counties in our region are dealing with the same problems, but some have the benefit of federal resources because of their inclusion in the Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). Our county is one of only a handful of counties not included in this designation. I will partner with Congressman Griffith to fully explore this option for additional resources. One step would be to create a Regional Drug Task Force to coordinate both intelligence and enforcement/prosecution resources. This combined effort or partnership from our outstanding local and state officers would facilitate the design of more effective enforcement strategies and operations.
I have a unique set of skills and experiences with Drug Treatment Courts: I have served as prosecutor, as defense bar representative, and as Drug Court Coordinator. I have served on Drug Treatment Court teams without interruption since 2012, and I am currently a defense bar representative on the Wise County Drug Treatment Court team. I fully support Drug Treatment Courts, and I agree with the rationale behind them. I was a prosecutor long before my involvement with drug courts, and I will admit to being skeptical when Washington County Drug Treatment Court got its start in 2011. Today, I am an advocate for drug courts. In order to improve upon this model in Washington County, as Commonwealth’s Attorney I will endeavor to help start a Family Drug Court like the one that exists in Wise County. I believe we can improve outcomes in this manner because youthful offenders can reap the benefits of the treatment approach earlier in life when drug problems often manifest themselves. The “juvenile” aspect of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is centered on rehabilitation of each child offender, an approach entirely consistent with the philosophy of drug treatment courts. Further, one person’s drug addiction affects that person’s entire family, so both the offender and his or her family members benefit from a family unit focused treatment scheme.
Traditional incarceration now carries a higher-than-traditional price tag for local governments. In recent years, the Commonwealth has changed from taking state-responsible prisoners into the Department of Corrections system who received an active sentence in excess of one year, to taking only those who receive an active sentence in excess of TWO years, shifting considerable expense to localities. In addition, per diem costs to localities for all incarcerated individuals have increased appreciably. This increase in incarceration expenses results in fewer dollars for Washington County to spend on other important local funding responsibilities such as education.

When otherwise incarcerated individuals are also non-violent offenders, there is an opportunity to seek better alternatives for both the locality and the offender. I pledge to start a Work Program for non-violent offenders in my first year back in office. I will request no new money in my budget to create the program. Offenders in the program will save the county incarceration costs. Benefits to participants include establishing a work history and gaining references to help them obtain employment upon release. Using figures for monies saved by other localities in our region who operate such programs, the money savings that will be realized for Washington County in the Work Program’s first year of operation will equate to at least one penny of our citizens’ property tax rate.
I am most concerned about the process that has brought us to a referendum to move away from the historic building. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is not required to be located within the Courthouse. When the County began to formulate options for the Courthouse, I offered to relocate across the street into the old Treasurer’s Office. I offered not because I wanted the office to move, but in order to free up space within the Courthouse and to make use of the County-owned empty building across the street. This re-use option was 1 of 3 presented in 2016 to the Board of Supervisors. It called for renovating the Courthouse and old Treasurer’s Office to increase square footage to 86,000 at a projected cost of $24 million instead of relocating. This option was not presented to citizens during the public meetings this summer. Complete renovation of our historic Courthouse with adaptive re-use of the county-owned building across the street was one of the original 3 options, but it is now excluded from the public’s consideration. Our choices now seem limited to 1) relocate, or 2) partially renovate and relocate in 10 years, or 3) relocate. What is most needed? An open and transparent process. And the voice of a fully informed public.