POLITICS: Governor Youngkin Pardons Scott Smith, Father Who Was Arrested in School Board Meeting
In a case that became a national flashpoint over transgender rights in schools, Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia has pardoned a father who was arrested during a contentious school board meeting in Loudoun County.
Mr. Youngkin’s office released a statement Sunday announcing the pardon of Scott Smith, who was charged after he rose to announce during a 2021 school board meeting that his daughter had been assaulted in a high school restroom by a boy “wearing a skirt.” The Loudoun County School Board was debating the subject of restroom use by transgender students at the meeting.
Mr. Smith was arrested after he clenched his fist and leaned toward a woman during an argument. Deputies dragged him to the ground as he continued struggling and arguing with them, an encounter seen in video that flew across the internet.
Mr. Smith was convicted of two misdemeanors in connection with the episode, but one of the charges — obstruction of justice — was later thrown out, and Mr. Smith was scheduled for trial on Sept. 25 in an appeal of the remaining charge — disorderly conduct.
The pardon comes at a time when the governor, a Republican who was elected in 2021 partly by seizing upon parental rights as an issue, is pushing to win Republican control in the State Senate in the November election. The 40-delegate body’s current Democratic majority has blocked some Republican initiatives, including a proposal to track diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the state’s public universities.
“In Virginia, parents matter, and my resolve to empower parents is unwavering,” Mr. Youngkin said in a statement announcing the pardon of Mr. Smith, whom Mr. Youngkin characterized as having been “wrongfully prosecuted.”
Buta Biberaj, the commonwealth attorney for Loudoun County, whose office initially handled Mr. Smith’s prosecution, accused Mr. Youngkin of political motivations, pointing out that early voting in the November election begins in two weeks. In a statement, she called the governor’s decision an “unprecedented and inappropriate intervention into an active legal case.”
“This is something where, unfortunately, I think the governor was using this for political gaming,” Ms. Biberaj said in an interview on Monday.
She noted that Mr. Youngkin had been aware of the case since before taking office: “Now, two weeks before early voting, you’re going to announce this?”
Ms. Biberaj, a Democrat, is running for re-election in November.
A lawyer for Mr. Smith, Bill Stanley, who is also a Republican state senator in Virginia, defended the governor’s decision in a posting on social media, and said that Ms. Biberaj was the one pulling a political stunt. Mr. Stanley could not be reached for comment.
The Smith case led to the dismissal of the Loudoun County superintendent of schools, Scott Ziegler, who faces trial on misdemeanor charges of making false public statements concerning the episode in the bathroom. He has pleaded not guilty.
Testimony in the case showed that Mr. Smith’s daughter had a prior consensual relationship with the boy Mr. Smith accused of assault, that the boy was not transgender, and that the boy was transferred to another school where he was accused in yet another case.