Blockbuster: Ryan Solicited Urgent Meeting with Jones Prosecutor

by James A. Bacon

Three days before withholding a state-ordered report looking into a 2022 mass shooting at the University of Virginia that killed three students and wounded two, UVA officials set up a meeting with the prosecutor of the alleged killer, The Daily Progress reports.

In a statement issued November 17, 2023, President Jim Ryan and Rector Robert Hardie justified keeping the report’s findings secret by quoting the prosecutor, Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney Jim Hingeley, as thanking the University for not complicating the prosecution of the accused.

“After conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, we have decided that we need to wait until after the criminal proceedings to release further information,” said Ryan and Hardie.

Left unsaid in the statement is the fact that Ryan initiated the meeting with Hingeley, using University Police Chief Tim Longo as an intermediary. Longo, who worked closely with Charlottesville and Albemarle County law enforcement authorities on safety issues affecting the university, made a logical go-between.

The Daily Progress uncovered email correspondence between Longo and Hingeley under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Can JJ Davis and I have about 15-20 minutes of your time today between 2 and 3?” Longo wrote in text message, referring to Chief Operations Officer J.J. Davis. “Fairly urgent and at President Ryan’s respectful request.”

Less than 30 minutes later Longo reached out again: “I apologize for the last minute and fairly urgent request.”

Hingeley responded via text message two hours later, agreeing to the conference, The Daily Progress reported. The parties decided to meet at O’Neil Hall at 2:30 p.m. Longo provided Hingeley with specific directions and parking instructions.

None of the documents uncovered by the newspaper specifically stated the subject of the meeting. But the next day Longo asked Hingeley, “Would you have time for me to read you the draft release?”

Once the statement was released, legal observers immediately questioned the motive behind the decision to withhold the report. If there had been information prejudicial to the defendant, Christopher Jones Jr., it could have been redacted. But by withholding the entire report, UVA leadership officials also kept under wraps any findings critical of how the University had failed to heed abundant warning signs that Jones was a potentially violent, gun-toting threat to the University community.

Jones’ trial is not scheduled to begin until next year. Thus, the University community will have had to wait more than two years after the murders to find out what went wrong and what, if anything, the University has done to address issues raised by the investigation.

The newspaper quoted legal analyst Scott Goodman as drawing the obvious conclusion: “It does confirm the suspicion that many people had, that the University of Virginia was the driver behind keeping the report secret, rather than Mr. Hingeley. I think from the emails and the text messages and the sequence of events, it’s very clear that the university wanted to keep it secret. And they reached out to Mr. Hingeley to see if they could use him to accomplish what it is that they really wanted to do.”

 “The University has no comment about this ongoing criminal investigation, UVA spokeswoman Bethanie Glover told the newspaper. “We defer to the Commonwealth’s Attorney on specific questions regarding this criminal proceeding.”

Hingeley also declined to comment.

Let’s review the chronology of events.

November 13, 2022: Jones allegedly shot five other UVA students, members of UVA’s football team. Three died.

December 9, 2022: At the request of Ryan and then-Rector Whitt Clement, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares appointed the law firm Quinn Emanuel to evaluate the circumstances leading up to the shooting and the University’s threat-assessment process.

October 20, 2023: When the investigation was complete, Miyares delivered the report to University leadership. Despite repeated promises to release the findings, University officials declined to do so when the opportunity arose.

November 14, 2023: Ryan asked Longo to schedule a meeting with Hingeley. A meeting was scheduled for 2:30 that afternoon.

November 15, 2023: Longo asked Hingeley to review the prepared statement before its release.

November 17, 2023: Ryan and Hardie released their statement, which invited readers to conclude, but did not state explicitly, that the decision to withhold the AG’s report came at Hingeley’s request (my bold).

After conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, we have decided that we need to wait until after the criminal proceedings to release further information. Making the reports public at this time, or even releasing a summary of their findings and recommendations, could have an impact on the criminal trial of the accused, either by disrupting the case being prepared by the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, or by interfering with the defendant’s right to a fair trial before an impartial jury. …

Hingeley is leading the prosecution of Christopher Jones, who faces 13 indictments for the shooting that took the lives of UVA student-athletes Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. …

“I am grateful to President Ryan, Rector Hardie, and their teams for their consideration as we continue to prosecute this important case,” Hingeley said. “The reports in question are subject to attorney-client privilege between the University and the attorney general and I have not seen them. With that being said, I appreciate the University’s efforts to avoid taking any action that could complicate the prosecution of the accused, Christopher Jones, or impair his right to a fair and impartial trial.”

The conclusion is unavoidable: Ryan and Hardie deemed the contents of the report to be highly embarrassing. They needed a fig-leaf justification for keeping it secret as long as they could. They hit upon the idea of wanting to avoid disrupting Jones’ trial, but they needed to make it appear as if a request had come from the prosecutor. Ryan asked Longo to reach out to Hingeley, which the police chief did. Longo and Peterson met with Hingeley about getting a quote from Hingeley that could be inserted into the statement. University leadership drafted the statement, and Longo reached out again to make sure Hingeley approved of the wording. Note: Longo read the draft to Hingeley, as no doubt instructed to do by University attorneys, rather than text or email the draft, which could have been captured by FOIA.

The statement did not say that Hingeley made the request. It quoted him only as saying that he appreciated the University’s action to avoid complicating the prosecution. But neither did it make clear that Ryan had reached out to Hingeley under urgent circumstances. The ambiguous wording allowed readers to infer that University officials made their decision at Hingeley’s request, thus making their decision to withhold the report appear to be disinterested.

Thanks to The Daily Progress‘ diligent reporting, we now know that any such inference was unwarranted.

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Hal Juren
Hal Juren
1 month ago

I’m not so sure I agree with you on this one. It seems legitimate to me that the University would want to check with the Commonwealth’s Attorney as to whether release of its report might prejudice the prosecution. Who else but the Commonwealth’s Attorney would have the information to speak to this? I can think of a lot of things that might be in the report that could affect the testimony of witnesses and the availability of witnesses.

Walter smith
Walter smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Hal Juren

The meeting with the CA was initiated by Chief Longo at Ryan’s “respectful request.” Then Chief Longo texted the CA to READ the press release. In other words, to make sure the CA agreed with the quote to be attributed to him in the press release.
seems like narrative control to me…
And…does theCommonwealth’s Attorney work for the Commonwealth or for the UVA administration? CA Hingeley also seems complicit in the UVA DOE anti-semitism investigation, where UVA, after receiving complaints about the SJP anti mask law violations (Va Code 18.2-422), confers with CA Hingeley who declines to prosecute those violations. That’s the UVA answer for ignoring those complaints.
If the anti-mask laws would be enforced, as they should, would Heather Heyer be alive today? There is a cost to allowing your pet activists to break the law with impunity. Shouldn’t the Commonwealth’s Attorney enforce the Commonwealths laws? Uniformly? Equally? How many CAs don’t enforce the laws they swear to uphold? How come some people get to break laws and others get the books, including totally fictitious books, thrown at them? Where is UVA Law on these civil rights abuses? As a formerly proud grad of UVA Law, it is a disgrace. A deafening silence.

1 month ago

President Ryan and UVA are not looking “great and good” on this one.

1 month ago

Another clear and evident incident as to exposing the stench of the rot that originates in Ryan’s mind that is carried out in an attempt to hide. All the while knowing therein that how he acts is not in fact “great and good,” as he would not seek to hide. Pathetic.

But in sharp contrast and not needing to hide, the beauty of the UVA student Jefferson so loved and envisioned as evident in this event I just received notice of being sponsored by the newly student formed UVA Discourse Initiative in which this Thursday evening in Warner Hall the student presidents of both the Republican and Democrat clubs will hold a joint presentation on civil discourse. Wish I could attend but on the road back to my grandchildren who I hope someday can include a woke-free UVA in their college search. Here is the flyer for the event:

1 month ago

I think this blog (as well as Bacon’s) is generally garbage and full of old men who are paranoid about wokeism and generally off the mark about the happenings at UVA. Having said this, the reporting and criticism about the administration’s behavior and secrecy with this report has been good. Don’t worry boys, the suits need to protect UVA from lawsuits and further degenerate the reputation of the university is still the most important item on the agenda.

1 month ago
Reply to  Bingocarl

Welcome to the TJC blog Bingocarl where we engage in civil discourse and free speech in the Jeffersonian spirit. Valid and reasoned ideas and thought are therein valued while ad hominem attacks are disregarded and only serve to undermine the position of the author of such. Again, welcome.

UVA Response to ADL
UVA Response to ADL
1 month ago

UVA response to ADL “F” grade:

“We are profoundly disappointed by the ADL’s assessment, which does not reflect the actual climate for Jewish students or other members of our community. We are studying the report card carefully and preparing a direct response. As we made clear in our initial communication to the ADL, we are deeply committed to caring for our students and to confronting antisemitism and other forms of bias. The UVA community has navigated the months since Oct. 7 with grace and compassion, and the University has acted swiftly in response to any and all reports of bias, harassment, discrimination, or violence.

While we have received several reports of antisemitic behavior, ongoing inquiries into those allegations have yet to return evidence to substantiate the claims or to warrant disciplinary measures, despite substantial investigative efforts. This includes specific allegations of violence against one student at a protest, after which University Police investigated thoroughly, using video evidence, witness statements, and other methods.

We are still evaluating the entire report card: of the 85 institutions graded, only 2 received an A, 17 received a B, and the remaining 66 schools received a C grade or lower. Roughly 45% of schools received a D or F grade. It appears initially that the ADL negatively graded many institutions for acts of constitutionally-protected speech, protest, or student-led referenda. The University of Virginia was founded on the principles of free expression and student self-governance, and we will continue to honor those values, even as we continue to fully condemn antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and to support members of our community in this challenging time. We can certainly always improve, but we strongly disagree with the subjective conclusions presented in this scorecard.”