Commonwealth Attorney for Fairfax County Steve Descano and his deputy thought they should be exempt from security screening as a 100 percent security screening of all employees at the Fairfax County Courthouse September 28.
On a typical day courthouse employees aren’t subject to thorough screening, but random screening days were recently instituted by the Courthouse Security Committee, chaired by Chief Judge of the Circuit Court Penny Azcarate. On these days everyone coming through the doors – both employees and visitors are screened. “As part of the screenings everyone will be required to walk through a magnetometer, and all bags, briefcases, purses, parcels and electronic devices will be screened by an X-ray machine. Signs are posted at each security checkpoint as an alert to the screenings. These orders will remain in effect until further notice,” according to the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office webpage discussing courthouse security.
The incident report detailed Descano and Chief Deputy Commonwealth Attorney (CDCA) Kyle Manikas entered the courthouse and were informed by security personnel that they were required to go through screening. Descano told the officers he shouldn’t have to be screened due to being the commonwealth attorney. The officer then informed him that all attorneys were required to be screened.
At this point, Descano threw the umbrella he was holding directly into the X-ray machine and began removing items from his pockets, throwing them into bins to be screened. “Do I really need to go through security?,” he asked officers. The officer asked to see his employee ID, which indicated he was an attorney and explained the policy to him again.
When two Fairfax County Police officers bypassed the checkpoint Descano asked why they didn’t go through security. The security officer explained that uniformed law enforcement officers were exempt from security checks. “That’s bullsh--!, Descano then told the officer. “Do you know who I am? I’m the top law enforcement officer in Fairfax County.”
Manikas also expressed his displeasure and was visibly upset about being screened, according to the incident report. “This is f—king bulls--!,” he said. As his belongings were being screened by the X-ray, it appeared there was a knife of some kind in a lunch bag. The officer then told him a further physical search of the bag was necessary and rotated the X-ray screen so Manikas could see the image he was looking at.
“This is f—ing bullsh--, I know you’re doing your job, but this is bullsh--,” Manikas told the officer. The officer then opened the bag revealing a butter knife and informed Manikas he could keep the knife and that the security screening was complete.
Then the officer told Descano the security check point was at the request of CS1. As he collected all his scanned personal items, he told the officer “I am CS1’s boss, they work for me.” He showed the officer his ID badge and leaned towards the officer explaining who he was and why he shouldn’t have to be screened for security.
CS1 is Sheriff’s Office Facility Security deputies, according to a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Sheriff. She confirmed they report to the sheriff only.
“Both attorneys demonstrated behavior unsuited for an officer of the court,” wrote a sheriff’s office supervisor in the report. The report concluded that security officers experienced disrespect, curse and abuse, and unprofessional conduct. Both the sheriff’s office chain of command and Azcarate were notified.
Descano has been under fire from critics for lenient sentences. In one case the defendant was charged with molesting a young relative for seven years and was also charged with molesting a second girl. Under a plea deal his sentence was capped at 17 years. Most recently Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows rejected a plea deal for a man accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a girl. Bellows said the proposed deal did not reflect the gravity of the alleged crimes.
Currently, there are two recall efforts underway for Descano. One was started by Stand Up Virginia in April. The second was started by Virginians for Safe Communities in August.
Repeated calls to the commonwealth’s attorney by the Fairfax County Times were not returned.