- Another of George Soros' far-left Attorney Generals
- Pledges to discard "Tough on Crime" policies
- Favors illegal immigration
- He decided to not prosecute 22 felonies and misdemeanors
- Crime rose dramatically after he won the election
- There were two recall efforts undertaken in 2021 to remove him from office
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in Delaware, Steve Descano graduated in 1998 from the prestigious Salesianum School in the city of Wilmington. He credits then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden for having provided his required congressional nomination for admission to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, from which Descano graduated with a B.S. degree in 2002. Descano then served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot from 2002-2004, and later earned a J.D. degree from the Temple University School of Law in 2010.
From 2010-2016, Descano resided in Fairfax County, Virginia and served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama. His work as a federal prosecutor focused heavily on financial crimes as well as offenses targeting “vulnerable populations” such as “immigrants and the elderly.”
After moving to Virginia in 2010, Descano became heavily involved with leftwing activist groups. Fairfax County, like much of Northern Virginia, was becoming increasingly committed to leftist politics after decades of Republican dominance. Descano joined the Fairfax County Democratic Committee in 2015; was a Board of Directors member with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia from 2016-2018; served on the Fairfax County Police Review Panel from 2017-2018; and sat on the Fairfax County NAACP‘s Criminal Justice Committee from 2016-2018.
Descano left the public sector in 2016 to become the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel for Paragon Autism Services in the Northern Virginia city of Fredericksburg.
On November 30, 2018, Descano announced his candidacy for the position of Commonwealth’s Attorney (C.A.) in Fairfax County – the equivalent of what is called a District Attorney in most other U.S. states. His campaign received endorsements from such notable individuals as Eric Holder, Terry McAuliffe, Tim Kaine, Don Beyer, and Mark Herring, as well as organizations like New Virginia Majority, People for the American Way, Real Justice, Our Revolution (Northern Virginia chapter), and CASA in Action (the political arm of CASA de Mayland).
Descano Pledges to “Discard the Tough-on-Crime Approach” While Addressing “Systemic Discrimination” and Implicit Bias”
Vowing to “discard the tough-on-crime approach that has failed to address the root causes of crime, in favor of a holistic approach that builds up our communities and makes them safe,” Descano described the scheduled C.A. election of 2019 as “a choice between submitting to the politics of fear or fighting for justice.” He ran on what he termed a “progressive” agenda of “reform,” which his campaign website outlined as follows:
- Moving Past “Tough on Crime” Policies: “Steve will work to create a smarter criminal justice system that will … allow our neighbors to reach their full potential, regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, or how much money they have. The activation of talent that would be wasted in a tough-on-crime administration will drive Fairfax County forward and benefit all of us. This smarter criminal justice system will also keep us safe [through] true justice—the kind of justice that breeds opportunity and rebuffs the inequality and poverty that create crime.”
- Protecting Immigrant Communities: “Steve knows that regardless of immigration status, all our neighbors deserve equal protection of, and equal access to, the law. The fear of law enforcement that Donald Trump has fostered in immigrant communities does nothing but lead to increased crime. […] Steve will do everything in his power to make his office a safe place for everyone, regardless of their immigration status.”
- Combating Racial Inequality: “Far too often race and ethnicity are determining factors in the outcome of someone’s experience with the criminal justice system. We need an institutional approach to rooting out systemic discrimination and implicit bias.”
- Reforming the Cash Bail System: “Cash bail undercuts one of the most critical pillars of our criminal justice system: the idea that rich and poor have the same access to justice. […] The inability to afford bail, even for a relatively short time, wreaks havoc on the still-legally-innocent individual’s life. Those awaiting trail often lose their jobs, and by extension their means of providing housing to themselves and their children. […] In desperation to get out of jail and keep their lives and the lives of their families’ intact, people will often take ill-advised plea deals simply so they can return home sooner. […] Even if these people are released immediately upon pleading guilty, they will have a criminal record that negatively affects their ability to find employment, further their education, and find housing.”
- Ending Mass Incarceration: “Although felony charges are warranted for serious crime, unnecessarily creating felons saddles a class of people who them face herculean hurdles to pursuing education, are barred from decent jobs, and lose their right to vote. Simply throwing everyone in jails lands people in a vicious cycle of decreased opportunity, increased poverty, and increased crime that becomes the dominant force in communities where the cycle takes hold. […] In addition to driving mass incarceration, because the cycle disproportionately affects people of color and low-income people, over-criminalization of our neighbors drives income inequality, the racial wealth gap, and the opportunity gap.”
- Ending the War on Drugs: “The War on Drugs has been a resounding failure. It has ruined lives, communities, and disproportionately hurt people of color—all while failing to keep us safe…. [A]ddiction is an illness, not a crime. We can’t prosecute our way out of a mental health crisis. Instead, we must seek alternatives to criminalizing those who simply need help.”
- Focus on Serious Crime: “Steve will focus on serious crime and serious criminals, and won’t unnecessarily expend resources on those who don’t pose a danger to the community.”
- Stop the Unfair and Ineffective Death Penalty: “The barbarism inherent in the state using its power to take a life and the racial discrimination that typically accompanies the application of that power is an affront to the just, equitable, and forward-looking ideals Fairfax County holds dear.”
Funding from George Soros and Descano’s Own Parents Propels Descano to Victory
Descano won the Democratic primary by a slim margin (51% to 49%) in June 2019. Fully $459,212 of the $647,000 in total contributions to his campaign came from one organization: the Justice and Public Safety PAC (JPSPAC), which in turn received most of its funding from two sources: (a) the leftist multibillionaire George Soros, and (b) a group called Democracy PAC, which derived most of its funding from the same George Soros. Another $75,000 in contributions to Descano’s campaign came from the candidate’s own parents.
On the strength of the massive infusion of JPSPAC money into his campaign just before the Democratic primary, Descano defeated the more moderate candidate and longtime incumbent, Ray Morrogh, who had raised just $254,324 with no donations exceeding $10,000. Calling Descano “completely unqualified for the office of Commonwealth Attorney,” Morrogh said: “The only case he tried, he disgraced himself when the judge reversed the conviction because [he] lied in closing argument. This man is not fit to hold office in Fairfax County. I’ve dedicated 36 years of my life to keeping you safe in Fairfax County, and I’ve never asked for anything. But I love my country, I love this county, and I believe in public safety. I’m asking you, vote for [Republican] Jonathan Fahey for all the victims in this county.” Warning that a Descano victory in the November general election could have catastrophic consequences vis-a-vis public safety, Morrogh, disgusted by Descano’s radicalism, went so far as to quit the Democratic Party.
Descano easily defeated Fahey in the general election, securing 61% of the vote. Of the roughly $800,000 in contributions Descano had received for the primary and general election campaigns combined, no less than $601,369 came directly from Soros’ JPSPAC.
Descano was officially sworn in as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County and Fairfax City, Virginia in January 2020.
Descano Pursues a Soft-on-Crime Approach
Within days of assuming office, Descano authored a Washington Post opinion piece declaring that he would no longer prosecute “simple possession” of marijuana—defying both federal and state law at the time. Asserting that “prosecuting adults for simple possession of marijuana is not in line with the priorities of our community,” he claimed that such laws “disproportionately affect people of color” and result in “individuals having a criminal record that can never be expunged.”
Another early barometer of Descano’s approach to criminal justice was the case of a man named Mark Lawlor, who, one day a dozen years earlier, had broken into the Falls Church, Virginia apartment of a 29-year-old woman named Genevieve Orange. Brutalizing her with unrestrained savagery, Lawlor struck his victim 47 times with either a claw hammer or a frying pan, fractured her skull in multiple places, and raped her while she lay on the floor, choking to death on her own blood. At Lawlor’s original trial, his defense attorney did not contest the man’s guilt, but merely asked for a sentence of life-in-prison-without-parole rather than capital punishment. The Fairfax County prosecutor at that time sought a death sentence, and the jury that convicted Lawlor sentenced him to die. But when a federal court sent the case back for resentencing in March 2020, Descano, the new Commonwealth’s Attorney, refused to seek the death penalty — even as the victim’s surviving family members begged him to pursue capital punishment for the killer.
In July 2020, Descano, a member and co-founder of the leftist organization Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, collaborated with other Soros-backed prosecutors to co-author a letter urging the state legislature to pursue “meaningful systemic change within criminal justice and policing.” Some key excerpts:
- “All measures related to police officer accountability for use of force, misconduct, and other behavior-related complaints, to include the requirement to allow prosecutors unrestricted access to all police reports, information, and disciplinary records of officers involved in a matter before the court”;
- “A requirement that all warrants be served during the daytime and include a knock-and-announce provision with additional showing to a judge, not a magistrate, for (i) nighttime service and (ii) no-knock service”;
- “The elimination of the mandatory six-month operator’s license suspension on all drug convictions, because the suspension serves no public safety interest and is an inappropriate punishment unrelated to the criminal behavior”;
- “The ability to expunge convictions from one’s record to enable one to have a meaningful ‘second chance’”;
- “The removal of mandatory minimum sentences from the law, allowing judges to take into account the needs and facts of each person’s case before their court”;
- “The clarification of the discretionary powers of the prosecutor.”
In August 2020, Descano’s office released a list of specific crimes that it would no longer seek to prosecute, citing a lack of funding and a massive backlog of cases due to COVID-related issues. These crimes included, among others:
- Assault and Battery
- Indecent Exposure
- Reckless Driving
- Petit Larceny/Shoplifting
- Animal Cruelty
In December 2020, a Heritage Foundation report produced a much longer list crimes that Descano’s office had decided to stop prosecuting. That list, as laid out by Heritage, read as follows:
- You can steal or shoplift goods valued at up to $1,000.
- You can assault most individuals in the commonwealth, including schoolteachers and health care workers.
- You can commit arson to defraud your insurance company as long as the property you burned was worth less than $1,000.
- You can willfully and intentionally set off a smoke bomb in a school, theater, store, office building, shopping mall, coliseum, or arena.
- You can commit prostitution or solicitation of prostitution without any repercussions.
- You can participate in a riot.
- You can obstruct legal process.
- You can obstruct emergency medical services personnel from delivering emergency medical services after the EMS personnel have requested that the obstruction stop.
- You can accept a bribe as a legal process server to delay or omit service.
- You can obstruct justice—even by threats or force.
- You can knowingly and willfully make a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer.
- You can resist arrest.
- You can knowingly make a false police report.
- You can use a police radio during the commission of a crime.
- You can commit some forms of jury tampering.
- You can engage in some forms of extortion as a governmental officer.
- You can fraudulently make a false entry or erase, alter, or destroy a record as clerk of court or other public officer.
- You can aid the escape of a prisoner.
- You can indecently expose yourself.
- You can drive recklessly, so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of anyone else.
- You can possess Schedule III, IV, V, or VI drugs.
- You can also possess with intent to distribute certain illegal drugs.
Recall Efforts to Remove Descano from Office
In 2021, two separate recall efforts to remove Descano from office were initiated. The first, which began in April 2021, was led by the organization Stand Up Virginia, whose president stated: “After failed attempts for almost a year imploring our local legislators to rein in his power through budget reductions, we now know that victims and their parents are being dismissed, silenced, and denigrated by Mr. Descano…. We are placing his removal in the hands of our citizens by launching a recall petition to ensure everyone is aware of the egregious nature of his actions.”
The second recall initiative was launched in August 2021 by Virginians for Safe Communities. One member of that organization, Sean Kennedy, said: “We are launching this campaign to hold accountable the prosecutors who have taken office under a writ of reform but have gone too far…. They are continuing to flout the rule of law, failing to enforce the law and are endangering our families and communities.”
In response to the initial recall attempt, Descano stated dismissively: “When I took office I promised our community I would hold police accountable and reform our criminal justice system…. While this work is far from done, we have made considerable progress—and transformative change often elicits fringe backlash.”
With regard to the second recall effort, Descano said: “It’s no surprise that far-right ideologues seek to obstruct the reforms my team is implementing by engaging in a Trump-style effort to undermine the will of Fairfax County voters.”
Descano Recuses Himself from School-Board Member Removal Case, Then Hand-Picks His Replacement
In September 2021, Descano stirred further controversy when he selected Jim Hingeley — a Soros-backed attorney and co-founder (with Descano) of Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (VPPJ) — to handle a high-profile case in which Fairfax County parents had secured enough petition signatures to remove a Democrat named Elaine Tholen from the local school board on allegations of “neglect-of-duty.” Because the parents had been able to compile the requisite number of signatures (5,100) to initiate the recall process, they were legally entitled to have the Commonwealth’s Attorney argue on their behalf. But Descano, who had close personal and professional ties to Tholen, recused himself from the case, citing conflicts of interest which included the fact that he himself was the target of an active recall effort. But contrary to standard recusal practice, Descano named his own hand-picked replacement, Hingeley, who likewise had close personal and professional ties to Tholen (and to Descano). Soon thereafter, Hingeley, after assuring Fairfax parents that he would painstakingly review their complaints against Tholen and would take the matter seriously, abruptly announced that he was dropping the case altogether – precisely the outcome that Descano himself would have wanted.
Characterizing Abortion Bans As “Orwellian infringements” on Women’s Rights
In 2021, Descano, who has described abortion bans as an “Orwellian infringement” on women’s rights, signed a petition to keep Roe v. Wade instated and to help block Texas’ so-called “heartbeat bill,” a state law that banned abortion procedures after the detection of embryonic or fetal cardiac activity, which normally occurs after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.
Descano Cuts a Lenient Deal with Longtime Child Rapist
In September 2021, Descano negotiated a deal with Oscar Zaldivar, a convicted child molester who had sexually abused a young girl on perhaps hundreds of separate occasions when she was between 5 and 10 years old. As a result of this agreement, the offender, who originally had been sentenced to life-in-prison, received a maximum of just 17 years behind bars — with the potential for an even shorter sentence, in light of the fact that Virginia had recently expanded the time credit that many inmates were able to get for good behavior and participation in counseling and education programs. After Descano had finished cutting his deal with Zaldivar, the judge presiding over the case reportedly said to the sobbing victim, “Make no mistake…. Your government has failed you.” Descano shrugged off the judge’s remarks as nothing more than “inappropriate … political statements from the bench.”
In December 2021, Descano objected to an opinion piece in which Virginia’s newly-elected Republican Attorney General, Jason Miyares, asserted that prosecutors should (a) place the welfare of crime victims and law-abiding citizens ahead of the welfare of criminals, and (b) never reduce criminal charges against a child rapist — an obvious reference to the Zaldivar case. Asserting that Miyares, in his op-ed, had given “a master class on how to show your ass,” Descano said: “He again proves he doesn’t understand the drivers of crime or the effects of the discredited policies he wants to implement. And as always, he’s willing to use victims as political props in the most disgusting way.”
Descano Vows Not to Prosecute Violations of Anti-Abortion Laws
“Almost two and a half years ago, I took my oath of office as prosecutor and swore to protect my community from those who broke the law. The real threat, I now realize, may stem from those who write the law.
“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the rights of thousands of Virginia women will be thrown into question. While the commonwealth does not have an abortion ban on the books, our governor has said that he is ‘staunchly, unabashedly’ against abortion and fully committed to ‘going on the offense’ against abortion rights in our legislature. Should Roe fall, he could well strip women of their reproductive rights — and go after thousands more who flock to the state whenever neighboring jurisdictions clamp down on abortion access. […]
“So when the court’s draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked earlier this month, I committed to never prosecute a woman for making her own health care decisions. That means that no matter what the law in Virginia says, I will not prosecute a woman for having an abortion or for being suspected of inducing one.”
Advocate of Gun Control
A proponent of strict gun-control measures, Descano has ridiculed gun-rights advocates as “dopes” who “cower” to the National Rifle Association. “We need to get rid of assault rifles,” he stated in late May 2022. “We need expanded background checks. If we are going to take things seriously, we have to go where the problem is. The problem is the guns.”
Supporter of “Gender-Affirming Care”
Descano supports “gender-affirming care” — i.e., voluntary castration and/or mutilation — for minors identifying as transgender. He says he is “sickened” by attorneys general who consider such procedures to be “child abuse.”
Supporter of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination to the Supreme Court
When President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson in February 2022 to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, Descano tweeted: “A wonderful choice. Besides Judge Jackson’s stellar qualifications, she is a former public defender. Having that experience on the Court is important because the public increasingly recognizes the need for #criminaljustice reform and bad-faith actors try to undermine that reform.”
Meet Steve Descano, the Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Fairfax County, Virginia
By Zack Smith and Charles “Cully” Stimson
December 14, 2020