- Was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney of Norfolk, Virginia in 2021
- Is supported by billionaire George Soros
- Advocate of soft-on-crime reforms to the justice system
Ramin Fatehi was born in 1978 in Suffolk, Virginia. When he was still a baby, his family moved to Tehran, Iran. Fatehi’s father was an Iranian neurosurgeon and his American-born mother worked as a nurse. The family returned to the United States in 1985 to live in the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia. Ramin Fatehi graduated in 1996 from the Norfolk Academy, one of Virginia’s top-ranked private schools. He subsequently earned a B.A. degree in History from Yale University in 2000, and a J.D. degree from the Columbia University School of Law in 2003.
After completing his legal education, Fatehi clerked for Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy of the Virginia Supreme Court from 2003-2004. He then worked as an associate for a corporate law firm named Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C. from 2004-2005.
Fatehi re-entered the public sector to serve as an Assistant Public Defender for the city of Richmond, Virginia in 2005. In 2006 he became an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Chesapeake, Virginia, where his work focused on prosecuting fraud and economic crimes. From 2011-2012, Fatehi prosecuted white-collar crimes, fraud, and child-exploitation cases as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
In 2012, Fatehi joined the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office as an Assistant C.A. for the independent city of Norfolk, Virginia. There, he specialized primarily in prosecuting insurance fraud throughout the Hampton Roads area while also handling violent crime, high-value embezzlements, and various special projects. From 2019-2022, Fatehi was Norfolk’s Deputy C.A. In that position, he oversaw the office’s Drug Team, whose purpose was to prosecute drug distribution and possession cases.
In 2021, Fatehi decided to run for the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney of Norfolk. Advocating for a variety of leftist policies designed to overhaul the criminal justice system, Fatehi’s campaign website described the candidate as “a Proud Democrat and Norfolk’s champion for criminal justice reform” – a man who had “led the charge in Norfolk to decriminalize and legalize marijuana possession, to abolish cash bail, to abolish the jury trial penalty, and to make the justice system honor the principle that Black Lives Matter.” Fatehi’s platform also called for:
- Full Marijuana Legalization and Regulation: “The possession and responsible use of marijuana is legal in large parts of the United States and all over the world…. It is time for Virginia to end marijuana prohibition.”
- Abolition of Cash Bail: “Cash bail criminalizes poverty by requiring persons accused of crimes—and presumed to be innocent—to pay to get out of jail…. We should [abolish it].”
- Abolition of the Death Penalty: “The death penalty is arbitrary, unfair, disproportionately inflicted on African Americans, expensive, and, above all, morally wrong. We must cease using the power of the state to kill our fellow human beings.”
- Abolition of Mandatory Minimum Penalties: “All people convicted of even minor traffic offenses in Virginia are required to pay court fees that are essentially non-waivable, even if they are indigent. This is flatly unfair, criminalized poverty, and speeds the cycle of poverty.”
- Reclassification of Simple Possession of Drugs as a Misdemeanor: “In Virginia, the illegal possession of a minor amount of a Schedule I or II drug—even a single Percocet pill—is a felony that strips a person of the right to vote, to serve on a jury, and to otherwise be a full citizen of Virginia. Reclassification of this crime as a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve months in jail is more than sufficient to deter the underlying conduct without depriving people of their rights as citizens.”
- Fair Rules on the Sealing and Expungement of Criminal Convictions: “The public visibility of a person’s criminal record should depend on the seriousness of their crime, consistent with public safety.”
- Faster Review of Police Shootings and Other Misconduct: Norfolk’s current system of reviewing police shootings and police misconduct takes too long, leaving both officers and the community without prompt answers to whether a shooting is legally justified and necessary or whether an officer’s actions constitute misconduct or even criminal behavior.”
- Fighting Racial Disparities in Prosecution: “Prosecutors will undergo continuing training in implicit bias, systemic racism, the history of mass incarceration, and the root causes of crime so that they can, to the extent possible, ensure that they prosecute cases on their merits rather than for impermissible reasons.”
- Focus on Violent Crime and Firearm Offenses: “Prosecuting violent crime requires the trust of the community. Criminal justice reform builds that trust by reducing the effects of overpolicing and freeing up resources to redirect to violent crime.”
- A Commitment to Diversity: “Ramin will … recruit and retain minority prosecutors and staff. [He] is committed to ensuring that the faces in the office reflect the faces of the people of Norfolk and will continue to make the Office a welcome place for people of all racial backgrounds, for immigrants, for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and for people from all walks of life.”
In April 2021, the Virginia-Pilot asked Fatehi to enumerate the three highest-priority changes he would seek to enact if elected. Fatehi answered:
- “On Day One, I will fundamentally restructure our office by implementing a model of community-oriented prosecution. Our fresh approach will build closer relationships with our neighborhoods, identify the few individuals committing the most serious crimes, and increase overall fairness.”
- “As the son of an immigrant, I know that the faces in our office must reflect the diverse faces of our community. On Day One, I will redouble our efforts to recruit and nurture prosecutors from all backgrounds, and I will appoint a woman of color as my Chief Deputy.”
- “I intend—within my first year—to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit to identify wrongful convictions and past police misconduct.”
In the same interview, Fatehi was questioned about his plan for dealing with “systemic racism in law enforcement and the justice system,” to which he replied:
“It informs everything I do. For too long, the criminal system has produced one brand of justice for the wealthy, connected, and privileged, and another, harsher brand of justice for everyone else, especially for poor people and people of color. I know as a prosecutor and former public defender that systemic racism—including mortgage redlining, neighborhood disinvestment, and the origins of the ‘war on crime’—has fed mass incarceration, harmed families, wasted taxpayers’ dollars, and made us less safe by undermining trust in the system…. [W]e must stop criminalizing poverty, homelessness, mental illness, substance-use disorder, and childhood and start rebuilding faith that the criminal system in fact seeks justice for all.”
Leftist multibillionaire George Soros donated more than $227,000 to Fatehi’s campaign for C.A. during the 2021 election cycle. This included over $177,000 that he contributed via the Justice and Public Safety Political Action Committee, a super PAC that Soros had unveiled in 2019 to promote the election of radical leftist prosecutors throughout Virginia — a state whose wealthy northern suburbs near Washington, D.C. had become increasingly Democrat blue in recent years. Soros also contributed more than $50,000 to Fatehi’s campaign via Democracy PAC, another Soros-founded super PAC whose purpose was to bankroll the campaigns of leftist candidates for political offices nationwide.
On the strength of the massive support provided by Soros, Fatehi won the Democratic primary for Norfolk C.A. in June 2021 with nearly 61% of the vote, defeating fellow Democrats Megan Zwisohn and Amina Matheny-Willard. The National Iranian American Council publicly congratulated Fatehi for his victory. Other leftwing supporters of the Fatehi campaign included Steve Descano, Rep. Bobby Scott, the New Virginia Majority, and the Working Families Party. The latter issued a statement praising Fatehi after he secured the Democratic nomination:
“Voters in Norfolk took a bold stand for criminal justice reform. Ramin Fatehi ran on a progressive platform that says ‘no’ to a system of mass incarceration that has disrupted families for generations and ‘yes’ to community solutions that reduce harm, keep people out of prison and at home with their families. There’s still more work to be done and the Working Families Party is ready to fight side by side with Ramin to make sure he prevails in [the general election in] November.”