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Weiner Court Ruling Prompts War of Words Over How Case Was Handled [July 2015 Archive]

Posted: Updated: Jul 15, 2017 08:16 PM
Mark L. Weiner, right, receives a hug from his sister Marcia Cohen as his wife Florence and brother Mike look on Tuesday outside Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Weiner's guilty verdict on a 2013 abduction case was vacated, and he will be released Mark L. Weiner, right, receives a hug from his sister Marcia Cohen as his wife Florence and brother Mike look on Tuesday outside Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Weiner's guilty verdict on a 2013 abduction case was vacated, and he will be released
Denise Lunsford Denise Lunsford
Robert Tracci Robert Tracci
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

The campaign for one November election is heating up thanks to a controversial court ruling. Candidates for the top prosecutor spot in Albemarle County are in a war of words over how a case was handled.

Mark Weiner is now home with his family after more than two years behind bars for an abduction that he has said all along he didn't commit. 

Weiner was accused of abducting a woman in December 2012. Last month, a judge sentenced him last to two decades in prison despite hearing new evidence earlier this spring that brought the alleged victim's testimony into question.

On Tuesday, Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford joined the defense motion to vacate charges against Weiner.  Lunsford says she made the decision to join the motion to vacate the charges after learning new information about the alleged victim that she says the jury should have had at trial.    

Lunsford is up for re-election this fall and now her challenger Robert Tracci is criticizing how she handled this case. Tracci says Lunsford ignored key pieces of evidence that should've prompted her to reconsider the case as early as the 2013 trial.  

Tracci adds that Lunsford was irresponsible in her entire handling of this case: "The role of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not to obtain convictions, and a lot of people have raised serious questions about the nature of this prosecution."

In court on Tuesday, Lunsford announced new evidence tainting the credibility of the alleged victim.  But Tracci says the signs were there much earlier: "Ms Lunsford, yesterday, in her court motion, said that this evidence that was presented yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back. Inherent in that comment is recognition that this camel was heavily loaded with a lot of doubt for a long time.”

Now, Lunsford’s firing back: "It’s very easy and convenient to second-guess something that you weren't involved in."

Lunsford says that even though Weiner ended up spending two years behind bars on charges she ultimately agreed to drop, she has no regrets. 

"I don't regret having prosecuted the case in the first place," she stated. "My belief in what really happened isn't relevant.  What's relevant is what was the right thing to do for the process, for the system."

Lunsford has said all along she believes the victim and she's still not backing down.  Instead she says this case is a prime example of why the job's so difficult. 

"Sometimes, and often in these cases, it's one person's word against another so the decision of how to prosecute and whether to prosecute isn't an easy one," she said. "I believed her in this case and that's why I went forward with it.  I felt she was telling the truth and I felt it was a community safety issue.”

Lunsford said up until she got this new information last week, she was still confident in the conviction despite previous motions and hearings questioning whether the 2012 abduction happened the way the alleged victim claimed.    

But Tracci says he believes all of those questions should have served as a red flag.

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