Former Charlottesville police officer Jeffrey Jaeger got a raw deal.
Despite performing his job in accordance with Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) policy, Jaeger was strung-up and betrayed by the institutions meant to protect him—and all citizens—from the ravages of lawlessness. After being cleared of any wrongdoing by internal review, Jaeger subsequently was charged with a crime, convicted, and very publicly relieved of his duties by Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. His ordeal precipitated an immediate and historic wave of violence in the city, as what few officers remained cowered or quit to save themselves from the implicit threat of Jaeger’s example.
A timeline and review follows…
On March 3, 2020 Officer Jaeger was attempting to assist the investigation of a reported domestic violence and burglary incident in the Prospect Avenue area of Charlottesville. This investigation was obstructed almost immediately by Andre Henderson, whose disruptive behavior was creating chaos and riotous conditions. Jaeger’s attempts to restore peace by removing a raging Henderson from the immediate area were physically resisted. Reasonable force was used to bring Henderson under control. Responding officers also had to arrest another person on-scene who was incited to violence by Henderson. Henderson was thereafter found to be wanted for failing to appear in court.
Jaeger followed policy and promptly reported his use of force (UOF), previously renamed “response to resistance” by Brackney, to a supervisor. When supervisors arrived to investigate, Jaeger explained his actions, while Henderson concurrently admitted that he had been obstructive when Jaeger restrained him.
A standard UOF investigation was conducted. The initial investigator, Sgt. Bradley Pleasants, went on leave without reassigning the investigation, which was completed by Cpl. Chris Huber at the direction Lt. Tony Newberry. Huber found Jaeger’s use of force justified.
Newberry—who also found the UOF justified—reviewed Huber’s report and contributed a memo that described a lawful and effective use of moderate force to preclude imminent violence. Notably, Newberry is a state-certified Defensive Tactics instructor and was qualified at trial to offer his expert opinion, which he did in Jaeger’s defense.
Cpt. Victor Mitchell reviewed the investigation and again found Jaeger’s UOF justified. Brackney was included in the investigation on the same email Newberry used to send the UOF packet to Mitchell; she did not refute the ultimate finding that Jaeger was exonerated of any policy or law violations.
Following his clearance, Jaeger continued his CPD duties, including his role as a state-certified Field Training Officer. He was not re-interviewed at any point, as his statements given to the initial investigator (Pleasants) were found to be sufficient to establish the lawfulness of his actions by every reviewing supervisor.
Unrelated to Jaeger’s specific actions, a local attorney subpoenaed body-camera footage of the March 3 incident to assist her defense of one of the other persons arrested at the scene for fighting Ofc. Grant Davis (who also used force to subdue that person). The attorney then filed complaints against every officer present. Of these, Jaeger was the only officer subjected to criminal investigation, despite other officers having used what the attorney claimed was “criminal force”— including one officer who was videoed shoving a woman into the side of a car and calling her a “f**king bitch.”
Det. Sgt. Ron Stayments was assigned to investigate the claim against Jaeger as a crime. Interestingly, Jaeger wasn’t offered an interview by CPD internal affairs (IA) or criminal investigators until January 2021. At that time, Jaeger was forced to respond to a token IA interview, but by then, his Constitutional presumption of innocence had been destroyed.
For unknown reasons, Cpt. Jim Mooney (a supervisor two ranks higher), not Stayments, wrote a criminal complaint against Jaeger.
In that complaint, Mooney swore that Jaeger was never interviewed and therefore never gave a justification for his use of force. Earlier in the document, however, Mooney described the interview Jaeger gave to Pleasants. This contradicted the basis for Mooney’s own argument that he could not understand why Jaeger did what he did—in spite of the fact that Jaeger clearly explained his actions in the initial review process.
Notably, in the complaint, Mooney’s explanation that Brackney never actually saw (much less cleared) the use of force investigation/packet despite being mandated to do so by a policy she herself signed, is damning. Mooney’s aspersion that Brackney never saw the copied UOF email (addressed to her and Mitchell) would be—if true—a terminable offense for any other officer (failing to perform/cooperate with force investigations).
In December 2020, Officer Jaeger was tried for misdemeanor battery in the Charlottesville General District court.
Prior to the trial, the presiding judge recused himself due to the obvious conflict of Jaeger having been a state’s witness in that court and on behalf of the city Commonwealth’s attorney for several years.
During Jaeger’s trial, the substitute judge was subjected to over a dozen verified mis-statements and contradictions from the state’s only witness, Henderson himself. Henderson’s credibility was further impeached on cross-examination when he admitted to lying whenever he saw fit, and that he was a multiple-time convicted felon of crimes of moral turpitude, including burglary and thievery.
Henderson’s testimony from the trial transcript:
Q: After you said that, “He did what he was supposed to do. I was acting out of whack. He thought I was being forceful, so he slammed me against the wall. He thought I was roughhousing. It’s all right,” how long after that statement that you made sitting there in the grass did you change your mind and think he did wrong?
A: I really never changed my mind, sir.
Q: So it’s okay to lie if you have a good reason for it?
A: We all do, don’t we?
Q: Is that a yes, it’s okay to lie?
A: No, it’s not okay to lie.
Q: But you give reasons to justify a lie, correct, like you’re doing now?
A: If there’s justification, yes.
Q: So what actions did you take after March the 3rd to pursue a claim against the officer?
A: I didn’t take no action. The action came to me.
Q: The actions came to you in July, correct?
A: Yes. The detective came to talk to me.
Q: And what were your two felonies you got convicted of?
A: Grand larceny and B&E from 2010.
Despite the judge finding that the arrest was lawful (refuting Mooney’s claims that there was no justification for arrest and therefore no justification for any force), she nonetheless deemed the force used to be “excessive.” This judgement contradicted findings by Huber, Newberry, Mitchell, and Brackney. It also contradicted Newberry in his capacity as an expert witness, who testified to his opinion that Jaeger’s actions were correct and lawful.
On December 11th, 2020, Jaeger was convicted of misdemeanor battery and sentenced to one year in jail, all time suspended (the typical sentence for that offense in city courts is thirty days in jail, all time suspended). On defense motion, that judgement was immediately vacated and a new trial ordered in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
Historically, CPD administration—seemingly in coordination with local prosecutors—often has sided with “activists” over the interests of the community and over the rule of law, notably:
- The quiet case-dismissals of three intentionally unnamed suspects in the $20,000 vandalism of CPD headquarters on June 21st, 2020.
- Failure to arrest any suspects for a well-publicized mob assault on Jaeger by multiple uniformed Antifa members on August 12th, 2018.
In this instance, CPD seemingly has coordinated with the prosecutor’s office and amongst themselves to conceal evidence exculpatory of Jaeger’s actions. Despite precedent that CPD themselves set for releasing body-worn-camera footage of incidents of public interest they have refused multiple requests to release Jaeger’s footage. The Department has remained intentionally vague in public statements—a deliberate course, which could allow people to imagine much worse than what actually occurred.
Under a law enforcement exemption, CPD administration has rejected FOIA requests related to Jaeger’s incident. Reportedly, employees of CPD, Albemarle County Police Department, and the Emergency Communications Center who have attempted to speak out against the treatment of Jaeger have been intimidated to silence or punitively treated at work if they endeavored to assist Jaeger in any way.
With threats against their livelihoods driving officers to distance themselves from Jaeger, the resulting isolation has caused Jaeger acute physical and mental health distress over the past year.
The ongoing persecution of Jaeger under false pretenses only harms police reform efforts. Misdirected prosecution empowers officers who have committed real crimes while degrading what trust remains between citizens and the police. The perpetuation of largely baseless myths of police brutality, brought about by lack of understanding of police tactics and procedures, is fundamentally destructive to the cause.
Moving forward, citizens and their elected representatives must demand that the rule-of-law be reestablished in Charlottesville. If unchecked, false claims and political-legal fabrications will go far beyond this accusation against a police officer.
As we witness a historic escalation of violence in Charlottesville, blame can be laid at the feet of CPD administration and their secret “equity agreement” with local prosecutors. Progressive policies have consequences. Misguided official actions and sometimes deliberate inaction has created a treacherous environment in Charlottesville, one which will not resolve itself.
Ultimately, the real losers in this battle are average citizens—particularly those who reside in and visit blighted, crime-ridden neighborhoods. The Charlottesville Police Department administration has completely abdicated its duty to these citizens, all in the name of propping up a narrative about the nation’s police officers—one that rides on the back of Officer Jeffrey Jaeger who clearly was thrown “under the bus” as a political sacrifice at the altar of wokeness.