Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D., Va.) says she’s worked tirelessly in Congress as a defender of abused women. But as a county prosecutor, Wexton went easy on rapists.
While serving as a Loudoun County prosecutor in 2001, Wexton had two rapists plead to misdemeanors, letting them walk after just months in prison, according to court records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. One man was charged with raping a woman four times in the same day. The other, an illegal immigrant, abducted his female victim and forced her into the woods before raping her. Under Virginia law, the men were eligible to serve at minimum five years in prison for each rape. According to Andrew Kersey, a former prosecutor who served in Fairfax County around the same time as Wexton, these plea agreements were unusually lenient.
"There were times I resolved a rape charge as a misdemeanor sexual battery charge with time served. But it was rare," Kersey told the Free Beacon. "That suggests a prosecutor who was reluctant to fight tough but serious cases before a jury."
The records undercut a central part of Wexton's claim that she's "fighting for survivors of domestic violence" and "holding abusers accountable," a central part of her campaign message. Her sentencing record could also hurt her chances against Republican candidate Hung Cao as Americans are souring on lenient criminal justice policies. Sixty-eight percent of voters list crime as a "very important" issue heading into the 2022 midterms, according to an October Harvard CAPS-Harris poll. Wexton leads Cao by just two points, according to an October poll by OnMessage.
Wexton's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Samuel Flores was charged with four counts of rape and one count of abduction with intent to defile in February 2001, court records show. He forcibly abducted a woman from her workplace, raped her in his car, then took her to his home and raped her three more times after locking her in a bedroom, according to a copy of his criminal complaint. "Each time she pleaded to be taken home, he slapped her," causing contusions, the complaint states. A magistrate held Flores without bond before trial, noting that the weight of the evidence was "good." But Wexton allowed Flores to plead to one count of sexual battery in April 2001, and he served less than two months before he was released.
Months later, Walter Hernandez, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, abducted a 19-year-old woman, forced her into the woods, and raped her, according to his criminal complaint. A magistrate said the weight of the evidence against Hernandez was "strong," and he was not granted bail. But in August 2001, Wexton had his charges reduced to sexual battery. He served four months in prison before his release.
In 2004, Wexton also prosecuted a man who had 28 years of his 40-year sentence suspended after he broke into a woman’s apartment in the middle of the night and raped her. The man only had to serve 12 years in prison.
Wexton has long touted her advocacy for rape victims during campaigns. While running for Virginia state senate in 2014, Wexton ran a controversial ad where she said she would "fight just as hard against tea party Republicans" as she did against rapists. As a state senator two years later, Wexton voted against a bill that would have made public sex offenders’ employment information.
In 2019, Wexton endorsed Loudoun County prosecutor Buta Biberaj (D.), saying a vote for her was a vote for "a safer, more equitable Loudoun." Since her election, Biberaj has made decisions that have threatened public safety, including hiring a registered sex offender and mistakenly releasing a murder suspect from jail, the Free Beacon reported.
Benjamin Wilson contributed to this report.
Update 8:30 a.m.: This piece has been updated.