Fairfax Judge Throws Out Conviction of Black D.C. Firefighter

The title of this blog post makes this out to be more than what it is. Seriously, you probably got caught up in the words “throws out” and “Black”. You’re not alone for sure. When I re-read my title, I thought, how or why does a judge throw anything? Also, I thought, why’s his skin color important?

Well, a judge can pretty much throw anything he or she wants. It’s their courtroom. It is known. But, here, the story is that Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge, Ortiz, reopened a case from 2019 and undid what a previous court did. He did that because Steve Descano, the current Fairfax County’s Commonwealth Attorney (aka. prosecutor) discovered that the misconduct of Jonathan Frietag, a former Fairfax County Police Officer, led to the wrongful conviction of a D.C. firefighter, and filed a motion – a formal request to the court – to undo the conviction.

If you read the full story, you’ll learn that the beneficiary of Descano’s effort’s was at the time in possession of drugs and weapons. The two sides that were at opposition here are: 1) the defendant – the firefighter – ended up in jail because of a racist cop and he shouldn’t have gotten pulled over in the first place, however, 2) that doesn’t change the fact that he was in possession of drugs and guns and given that he had those in possession, he didn’t get what he deserved. The former is why the defendant’s race is significant here because it was proven that the officer’s wrongdoing was racially motivated.

In the end, during a Fairfax County Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau investigation, the officer in question admitted to racial profiling at traffic stops, which corroborate the evidence used to convict the defendant in this story. As noted by Descano, this is part of a larger effort of his office to serve as “an independent check of the police and the other actors in the criminal justice system”. Also, the misconduct of former Fairfax County Police Officer Jonathan Frietag has been highlighted in local and national news as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more of similar stories regarding him in the near future.