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Hash lawsuit names sheriff and former prosecutor

Michael Hash of Culpeper, who spent nearly 12 years in prison before his capital murder conviction was overturned by a federal judge, has filed suit against the people who prosecuted him.

Hash’s suit in Charlottesville federal court names five law enforcement officials and a jailhouse snitch. He claims the law enforcement officials, including former Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close, “engaged in a concerted and malicious effort” to convict him of a brutal crime “despite the total absence of credible evidence against him.”

Hash claims the prosecutor and police fed information to witnesses, coached the witnesses in false accounts and persuaded witnesses to lie by promising favorable treatment. The suit also alleges law enforcement officials went to “great lengths” to cover up the evidence of their own misconduct.

The allegations of the Hash lawsuit track the findings of U.S. District Judge James C. Turk, who vacated Hash’s conviction in February. Turk described a “cavalcade of evidence” of police and prosecutorial misconduct. Close resigned as commonwealth’s attorney 12 days later.

Hash seeks compensatory and punitive damages, without specifying any amount. He is represented in his civil action by Matthew P. Bosher and other lawyers from the Richmond office of Hunton & Williams LLP. Lawyers from Hunton and from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project represented Hash in his successful habeas challenge to the capital murder conviction.

Hash was convicted of the 1996 murder of 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins of Culpeper County. After his conviction was overturned this year, a special prosecutor determined not to try Hash again. The Scroggins murder remains an open case.

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