Category: Stafford County Sheriff’s Office

Chuck Feldbush Calls Out Sheriff Jett for Unnecessary Roughing in “Banana Man” Prank

By , September 23, 2011 1:49 pm

Chuck Feldbush (I-Stafford), who is running for Sheriff in Stafford County, has just issued a press release on the “Banana Man” incident:

Feldbush for SheriffSTAFFORD, VA — Citing police overreach and overreaction to high school high jinx, Stafford Sheriff Candidate Chuck Feldbush today condemned the response of Stafford County Sheriff’s Department to Colonial Forge High School’s “Banana Man” incident.

“This is the latest example of a department going bananas over harmless kid stuff while real crime – violent crime – is threatening the peace and safety of Stafford County,” said Mr. Feldbush.

“Slapping cuffs on a kid — who has a disability — for running down the sidelines at a high school football game in a banana suit is a complete overreach of the authority of the sheriff’s department.” Mr. Feldbush continued, “It’s a disturbing sign that Sheriff Jett has lost control of his deputies – and this is placing our kids at risk.”

Citing that under Sheriff Jett’s watch, violent crime is up 66% in Stafford County, Feldbush declared that he would focus more on reducing violence in our community, put more resources into clearing unsolved cases, and work on real solutions to make Stafford a safer place to live, work and play.

“We need law enforcement officers to protect our kids and keep them safe, not hassle them and rough them for silly pranks that injure no one,” Mr. Feldbush concluded.

Nice job by Chuck! I’ll say it again, it’s all about accountability and results. Sheriff Jett may be a likeable guy, but to me it’s all about the results – which just aren’t there. Keep Stafford safe by voting for Chuck Feldbush (I-Stafford) for Sheriff on November 8th.


UMW Communication Professor Anand Rao on Colonial Forge High School Free Speech Controversy

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By , September 23, 2011 7:18 am

Professor Rao isn’t the only one speaking out about the violation of student’s free speech rights in the wake of the Banana Man controversy. His daughter, Tizrah Rao, is a Colonial Forge High School student who became engulfed in the controversy when she wore a yellow t-shirt that read “Free the banana man” in support of her classmate. An assistant principal confiscated the t-shirt.

Of Brian Thompson (a.k.a. Banana Man), Tizrah explains her support by saying “he’s a nice kid” and that the suspension was unfair and “didn’t match the crime.”

In response to her t-shirt being confiscated on Wednesday, she wore a yellow t-shirt that read “Free Speech” on Thursday. The result was that the same assistant principal asked her to take it off.

ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg supports Tizrah’s constitutional right of free speech. On Thursday, she sent a letter to Colonial Forge High School Principal Karen Spillman that supported her right, “Based on our understanding of the facts, it appears that some students at your school have strong feelings about the discipline of a fellow student, and that they have chosen to express those feelings in a passive, non-disruptive manner. We ask that you respect their constitutional right to free speech.”

If all of this wasn’t enough already, we learned last night about Principal Spellman’s heavy-handed past in Prince William County. Given her checkered past, it is certainly fair to question her judgment (and the judgment of our school system who hired her).

It also appears that the Sheriff Jett is in damage control and is now claiming that Brian cursed at deputies, which is why he was handcuffed and thrown into a squad car. Another boy has already come forward and admitted to being the one who cursed. With violent crime up 66% in Stafford County, Jett is so focused on bananas and not on the real criminals. With him facing re-election this year, his prospects of re-election continue to plummet.

Please don’t forget to sign our online petition to Free Banana Man here. Over 200 signatures strong already!

[Image via Free-Lance Star.]


Breaking News: Colonial Forge Principal’s Heavy-Handed Past

By , September 22, 2011 10:31 pm

UPDATE: In addition to what appears below, apparently Principal Spillman was hired for a job at Strasburg High School and resigned 15 days later. What happened? What did they find? The plot thickens.

Karen Spillman is no stranger to controversy. Or for that matter effecting heavy-handed responses to benign, innocent situations—like when a reporter for a community newspaper stopped to write a feature story on…baby ducks.

Ten years ago, the current Colonial Forge High School Principal ran Woodbridge High School in Prince William County. From

Reporter Kelly Campbell went to [Woodbridge High School] last week to finish up a feature on baby ducks and wound up in handcuffs and cooling her heels at a police station.

Students no doubt will be heartened to see someone besides themselves suffer under “zero-tolerance” policies afflicting the nation’s schools these days. But the reporter’s arrest raises legitimate questions about the ability of the press to perform its constitutional role and about the dismissive attitude of many government officials toward public accountability.

It all started when a photographer for the Potomac News in Prince William County, Va., saw a young person with a duckling at a baseball game last week and took a photo. She found out that the duck was part of a class assignment at Woodbridge High School.

In reporting a story to go with the photo, Campbell learned that biology teacher Douglas Pinion had 100 students take home two-day-old ducklings in an experiment about how they might “imprint” on the humans. She also encountered wildlife experts and some students and parents who expressed concerns about the welfare of the ducks. Her calls to the school to get further information were not returned. So she went to the school, where Principal Karen Spillman invited her into her office for an interview.

Shortly after the interview began, Spillman suddenly called it to a halt. The reporter wanted to know why. During the back and forth between the principal and the reporter, a man wearing a high school marching band jacket entered the principal’s office to say he was leaving for the day. The principal asked him to wait because she might need help removing the reporter, even though she had not asked Campbell directly to leave. Before Campbell could leave willingly, the man took her by the arm and started ushering her out.

Campbell recounted later: “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘Arresting you.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ ” At that point, the man pulled up his band jacket to reveal a county police logo on his knit shirt. John Chapman, a Prince William County police officer, was on duty at the school, wearing what a department spokesperson termed “a relaxed uniform.”

Officer Chapman handcuffed the reporter and took her to the police station, where she spent two hours before being charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and driven back to her car at the school. Her editor and publisher had come to the station but were not allowed to see her.

“Our reporter was caught off guard by the principal ending the interview,” said Campbell’s editor, Susan Svihlik. “Expressing surprise and hesitation is not against the law, nor is it trespass.”

After the arrest, Kelly Campbell went back to the newsroom and wrote her baby ducks article, which was published in the Potomac News on June 8. The next day, a story about her arrest, written by a newsroom colleague, appeared in the newspaper.

Campbell is scheduled to appear in court July 31 on trespass charges carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.

Leaders of state and national press organizations quickly issued statements of concern about the arrest.

Louise Seals, president of the Virginia pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, noted that press relations with education and police officials in Virginia are usually quite good. She expressed hope that this issue could be resolved without going to court. The state SPJ will support the Potomac News reporter in her legal fight if necessary, Seals added. “A reporter has to be able to ask questions without fear of being arrested.”

“We hope that this was a one-time error of judgment that won’t be repeated,” said Ray Marcano, SPJ’s national president and assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News.

“Reporters simply should not be arrested for doing their job,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Apparently, Ms. Campbell was arrested for doing what all good reporters are trained to do. She was thrown in jail for asking: ‘Why?’ ”

The arrest of Kelly Campbell while interviewing a high school principal for a relatively innocuous story is just one more in a string of recent examples of public officials’ hostility toward journalists trying to keep the people informed about their own government.

Dr. Spillman later served as Associate Superintendent for Prince William Schools. She left the system in 2004.

It appears she is still (ducking) questions. Dr. Spillman has yet to respond to a letter sent earlier today by the legal director of the Virginia ACLU. Stafford County Schools spokesperson Valerie Cottengim told the Free Lance-Star that [they} are reviewing the ACLU letter.

So…if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it must be a high school principal with the leadership style of a banana-republic dictator.

What else is there about Principal Karen Spillman that we don’t know?

Don’t forget to sign the petition to Free Banana Man here.


Banana Man’s Mom Stunned By Treatment By Police

By , September 22, 2011 10:16 pm

The Banana Man controversy just continues to grow – you know the student who was handcuffed and placed in a police car for running down the sidelines during halftime of a high school football game in a banana suit, suspended 10 days from school and is now facing possible expulsion.

According to, his mother Tavia Thompson says “she was stunned to find her son handcuffed in a police car when she got to the game.”

I also just got done speaking to a reliable source that was working the game and noted how aggressive deputies were acting throughout the game – even before the incident.

I’m so glad that Sheriff Jett (R-Stafford) is taking my article on increased crime in Stafford County so seriously. Clearly, the Banana Man posed an imminent danger to the community and it was necessary to handcuff him and throw him in the back of a squad car. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the post. He wasn’t arrested and no charges have been filed yet, but I hear that Eric Olsen (R-Stafford) is on the case – that’s after he finishes returning the illegal campaign donation.

It’s clearly time for a change in Stafford County. Thank goodness that we have two folks who more concerned in keeping us safe then arresting and charging bananas – my vote is for Chuck Feldbush (I-Stafford) for Sheriff and Tim Barbrow (I-Stafford) for Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Be sure to sign the petition to Free Banana Man here.

Just how ludicrous is all of this, check out an NBC Washington interview below:

Just how bad are things getting in Stafford County? We are now the laughing stock of the entire region.


ACLU: Colonial Forge Violating Student’s Right to Free Speech, Banana Man Controversy Grows

By , September 22, 2011 8:53 pm

The controversy surrounding Banana Man and the reaction by Colonial Forge High School and the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is growing ever louder by the minute.

Students across the area, in a show of solidarity, have been wearing yellow t-shirts or other apparel in support of Brian Thompson (a.k.a. Banana Man) – you know the student who was handcuffed and placed in a police car for running down the sidelines during halftime of a high school football game in a banana suit.

The ACLU of Virginia believes that “the school’s actions appear to violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Based on our understanding of the facts, it appears that some students at your school have strong feelings about the discipline of a fellow student, and that they have chosen to express those feelings in a passive, non-disruptive manner. We ask that you respect their constitutional right to free speech.

You can view the full letter here.

The Free-Lance Star spoke to a Colonial Forge Student, Tizrah Rao, who had her t-shirt confiscated yesterday by an assistant principal and her First Amendment rights violated. The shirt simply read, “Free the banana man.”

So today she wore a t-shirt that simply read, “Free speech.” The result was somewhat similar, although it appears that she was able to keep her shirt and just had to change into a different one.

The way she and many others have been treated by the school is outrageous and illegal!

Wearing t-shirts isn’t the only way that students and community members are showing their support. I caught up with a recent graduate of Stafford High School today who was riding around town on a scooter in a banana costume. He believes that the treatment of this student is outrageous and has joined a growing majority in Stafford County who want Banana Man freed!

To help free Banana Man, sign our online petition here.


Sign the Petition to Free Banana Man!

By , September 22, 2011 9:18 am

UPDATE: After you’re done signing the petition, check out the Free Banana Man Song (at the bottom of this post)!

The Free-Lance Star finally got around to covering this great injustice, which I wrote about here. It’s about time.

Sign our petition to “Free Banana Man”:

Being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a squad car, getting suspended for 10-days and facing possible expulsion is beyond reason. The prank doesn’t fit the punishment.

Brian should be allowed to return to school immediately and his record expunged.

The Stafford County’s Sheriff’s Office should immediately provide expanded training on how to deal with individuals suffering from autism and mental illness. Sheriff Jett also needs to focus on catching the real criminals in our county. We’ve experienced a 66% rise in violent crime since 2005, according to the Virginia State Police. This is unacceptable.

Let’s send Sheriff Jett a message by liking Chuck Feldbush (I-Stafford) for Sheriff on Facebook. The citizenry in Stafford County deserve accountability and results.

I also highly recommend liking  Tim Barbrow (I-Stafford) for Commonwealth’s Attorney. If Eric Olsen brings charges against this kid, it will be just another example of overreach by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Stafford. We need a whole new direction in Stafford!

You can also like us on Facebook here.


Milde’s 40 Million Dollar Memory Problem

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By , September 21, 2011 6:07 pm

If I were Paul Milde (R-Aquia), I’d too want to forget all about the $40 Million public safety radio communication system. I recently wrote about how bad of a deal this was for Stafford taxpayers.

At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the board was presented with an updated Telecommunication Plan – which was to be voted on as an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.

Director of Planning and Zoning, Jeff Harvey, got things started by presenting the key points of the proposed Telecommunication Plan – which is meant to address broadband communication in its various forms and the guidelines for placement of towers throughout the county. Of particular note, the plan “encourages the placement of telecommunication towers on county owned properties.”

What ensued was an unexpected discussion on tower leases and the public safety radio communication system between Anthony Romanello and Paul Milde.

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Milde wondered whether it was “legal” for the county to be in the business of building towers and leasing towers to individual users.

Romanello said, “We certainly could have as part of our public radio communication system. The direction from the board, which was probably six years ago now, was no new towers. So we made a conscious decision to work with the existing infrastructure that was in the county, which is why were in most cases we are leasing.”

Milde then realizing that he had stepped in it shot back to Romanello that he wasn’t talking about the public safety radio communication system. If I were Milde, I’d try to avoid talking about this at all costs. After all, he voted for Sheriff Jett’s outrageous deal in the first place.

Romanello responded by saying that “I understand that but that would have been an opportunity to go into that business and then to have leased out that space or the existing capacity to the private sector.”

As I’ve previously noted, Supervisors including Milde and Mark Dudenhefer (R-Garrisonville) had previously directed the consultant to “only consider the existing shorter towers [(existing infrastructure)] rather than a potentially less expensive option with fewer taller towers.” Cost containment was not a requirement.

I’m not suggesting that we should have built the towers on county-owned land, but no consideration was given to cheaper options. Romanello’s quote suggests that had we built the towers and leased out any remaining capacity to the private sector that we could have generated revenue for the county. Instead, we negotiated many “sweetheart” long-term leases with outrageous annual escalation rates. What an outstanding job by Sheriff Jett, Milde and Dudenhefer.

I had previously noted my opposition to the way that the radio system was financed – through more expensive Lease Revenue Bonds versus cheaper General Obligation Bonds. Lease Revenue Bonds guarantee repayment from the revenues generated by a specific revenue-generating entity associated with the purpose of the bonds. In Romanello’s example, leasing out excess capacity on the towers would have generated revenue; thus, a case could have been made for these more expensive bonds, if the revenue generated was enough to justify them. However, I still believe voters should have had a say on a procurement of this size.

Where was Milde’s curiosity when he was voting in favor of the public safety radio communication system in the first place? Milde “doesn’t know what the tower owners are charging per spot”? Obviously he has a short-term memory. Let’s review a few examples of what he voted for.

The Thorny Point tower site is costing us $57,000/year with a 15% escalation rate every five years and the Powell tower site is costing us $51,000/year with the same escalation rate as Thorny Point, as a few examples. Let’s not forget that the Free-Lane Star is earning $1.3M from us for one of the towers over the next 30 years (hmm, I wonder). I’ve also been told that the Free-Lance Star had been approached for many years by many parties to lease this tower and those parties were repeatedly turned aside. I guess Jett and company offered them a deal that they couldn’t refuse.

I never cease to be amazed. Thank goodness voters have other options this year: Chuck Feldbush (I-Stafford) for Sheriff, Tim Barbrow (I-Stafford) for Commonwealth’s Attorney and Dean Fetterolf (I-Rock Hill), Charles Latimer (D-George Washington) and Fred Sweat (D-Griffis-Widewater) for Supervisors.


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