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Prosecutor charged over discovery rule

The Virginia State Bar has charged a prosecutor with ethical misconduct for allegedly failing to share helpful evidence with a criminal defendant’s attorney.

Through her attorney, the prosecutor said she did not know about most of the evidence in question, and did not believe that other evidence could have helped the defense.

The charges against Archana J. McLoughlin of Williamsburg are set for a July 22 hearing in Winchester before a VSB disciplinary committee.

According to the bar’s charge of misconduct, McLoughlin was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Clarke County handling an assault case. A court order called for McLoughlin to deliver to the defense any exculpatory evidence in the case file.

The evidence showed McLoughlin did not turn over a 911 tape and a police report of an interview of the alleged victim, the bar said. Both items could have helped the defendant, the bar said.

McLoughlin failed to turn over additional exculpatory evidence later delivered to her office, the bar said.

McLoughlin allegedly told a bar investigator that a non-lawyer office manager had the responsibility to review all criminal files for exculpatory evidence.

After being questioned about the case, McLoughlin resigned her position. She now works in the Williamsburg commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

“The charge contains factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions,” McLoughlin said in a statement provided by her attorney. “I will vigorously defend against these allegations and expect to be fully exonerated after the hearing,” she said.

McLoughlin is charged with violating an ethics rule that generally requires a prosecutor to “make timely disclosure of the existence of evidence which the prosecutor knows tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense, or reduce the punishment.”

The prosecutor’s knowledge is an element of the charge, said William W. Tunner of Richmond, who represents McLoughlin.

Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney Suzanne Mackall declined to address the specific charge against McLoughlin because of the approaching hearing.

Mackall said her office “has always had an open file policy.”

In the underlying criminal case, the defendant was convicted in general district court, according to Mackall. After questions were raised about the handling of exculpatory evidence, a special prosecutor reviewed the file and dropped the charges.

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