V.I. Justice Department Agreed to Drop Charges Against DeJongh, but Hasn’t

The V.I. Department of Justice signed an agreement agreeing to drop all charges against former Gov. John deJongh Jr. and former Public Finance Authority Executive Director Julito Francis, but as of Friday, had not dropped the charges and is now refusing to answer any questions about it.

In August 2015, shortly after taking office as Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s fourth acting attorney general that year, Attorney General Claude Walker charged Mapp’s former gubernatorial rival, Gov. John deJongh Jr., for allegedly embezzling public funds on widely publicized security improvements on his house in 2007.

Francis was also charged.

Walker took few questions at a press conference afterward, saying it was an "ongoing investigation." He did say that if convicted, neither man would be eligible to run for public office in the Virgin Islands. (See Related Links below)

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Otherwise under V.I. law, deJongh could run against Mapp for another term as governor in 2018.

Both men disputed the charges, which echoed political attacks dating back to 2009.

A U.S. Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General report found the spending not to be properly authorized and that deJongh should repay the costs. DeJongh disputed the report’s findings, but agreed to pay the net costs of the improvements when his term ended. In May, 2015, he wrote a check for $202,831.60, which Mapp’s Department of Justice declined to accept.

In November 2015, deJongh pleaded not guilty, moved to have the charges dismissed and declared in a statement that the charges were groundless and a "politically driven … vendetta" by Mapp.

On Jan. 14, deJongh signed a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, signed on behalf of Walker by Assistant Attorney General Quincy McRae, chief of the Criminal Division, agreeing to dismiss all charges against deJongh if deJongh pays $380,000 for the security work. [Settlement Agreement]

The next day, McRae sent an email to deJongh’s attorneys Gordon Rhea and Michael Quinn saying he had signed the motion to dismiss the charges and that it would be filed as soon as "that check clears." [McRae email]

The check then cleared. But the charges were not dismissed.

Instead Justice officials gave an array of changing excuses for not acting on the agreement and then fell silent, according to an emergency motion to enforce the agreement filed by deJongh’s attorneys in V.I. Superior Court on Thursday. [Motion to Enforce]

Asked about the settlement agreement Friday, Deputy Attorney General Renee Gumbs-Carty said, "I have no comment at this time on that matter."

Calls to McRae and Walker asking about the status of the settlement agreement were not returned.

"We reached an agreement with the government," Rhea, deJongh’s attorney, said in a phone conversation Friday. “We did what we agreed to do right away and we expect the government to do the same.”

Rhea said there had been no movement and no word from Justice since the Thursday court filing.

DeJongh said in a statement Friday that his original check for $202,831.60 reflected the officially appraised value of what was to remain on the property. He said that sum deducted the value – and cost of demolition – of a guardhouse that was not needed now that he is not governor.

According to deJongh, he agreed to pay $380,000, reflecting the cost of the "unwanted guardhouse" to "facilitate the final resolution of this matter without further legal proceedings."

“I would like to thank our community for the heartfelt support that has been expressed to me and my family during this period, as it has shown the best of what we have to offer to each other," deJongh said in the statement.

This is the second time in the past 12 months the Department of Justice has faced controversy over entering into an agreement and then not acting on it. In May, then-Attorney General Terri Griffith tried to annul a plea agreement in a tax case with radio magnate Jonathan Cohen. Ultimately the plea agreement was reinstated and Griffiths resigned as attorney general.

In that case, Cohen pleaded guilty, unlike the current situation, where the defendants still plead not guilty and the government has agreed to dismiss all charges.

Griffith was replaced by James Carroll III. Mapp later replaced Carroll with Walker, saying that he wanted "to go in a different direction." Walker filed the charges against deJongh two weeks later.

Mapp has himself been accused of the crimes for which deJongh was charged. Former Special Assistant Attorney General Laverne Mills-Williams filed suit in 2015 alleging Mapp had her fired for being a "whistleblower" of misspending of public funds in the Mapp administration.

According to court documents, her complaint contends the documents she released "verified that there had been improper spending of funds without the approval of the Legislature," among other things. The spending in question included thousands of dollars worth of alcohol purchased with a government credit card and a number of expensive restaurant bills.

Walker has declined to comment on those criminal allegations. Mapp disputed the spending was improper and later issued a statement saying she was fired for "associating" with her attorney in the wrongful dismissal lawsuit. (See: Mapp Fires DOJ Whistleblower For "Association" With Her Own Attorney in Related Links below)

There is also an ongoing civil case over documents relating to the government-owned West Indian Co. Ltd.’s controversial decision to pay more than $12,000 per month for a luxury villa for Mapp after the Department of Property and Procurement denied Mapp’s request to pay for it.

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