Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Candidates Face Off in Debate

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Jeff Fogel (left) and Joe Platania (right) faced off in a debate Thursday night Jeff Fogel (left) and Joe Platania (right) faced off in a debate Thursday night
Joe Platania, current Charlottesville assistant commonwealth's attorney Joe Platania, current Charlottesville assistant commonwealth's attorney
Jeff Fogel, defense attorney Jeff Fogel, defense attorney

The candidates vying to be Charlottesville’s next commonwealth's attorney faced off in a debate hosted by Virginia Organizing. The commonwealth’s attorney candidate forum was held in Charlottesville City Council chambers Thursday night.

The race is really about the establishment versus anti-establishment - current Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Platania against defense attorney Jeff Fogel.

The conversation at Thursday’s forum quickly turned to how the city's new top prosecutor will work with police.

“A good working relationship with law enforcement is key,” Platania explained.

Platania told a story of a Charlottesville police detective reaching out to him for legal advice on how to protect a suspect's rights when investigating a recent crime.

“We were able to do that because he didn't just go off on his own and start doing things,” Platania said.

Fogel has frequently been at odds with the city's police department over its stop and frisk policy and community relations.

“It is obviously important to work with the police. I have met with Chief [Al] Thomas and I think he's a good man, I think he's got a good heart. I think he wants to do the right thing. I think he's also constrained by politics,” Fogel said.

The candidates were both asked about the experience each has for the job.

Platania has worked a prosecutor in Charlottesville for the last 15 years.

“My personal view is that the elected commonwealth’s attorney position is not one that lends itself to learning on the job and figuring it out as you go along,” Platania explained.

Fogel said his decades of experience as an attorney would serve him well to address some of the larger criminal justice issues in the city.

“Let me flip the question to start with which is what experience does Joe have in reducing mass incarceration? What experience does he have in reducing racial inequities? I have spent my life dealing with those two issues,” Fogel said.

Fogel and Platania are running on the Democratic ticket, so they will face off in a primary election on June 13, before the general election next fall.