The Justice Digest, Issue VI


Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney

for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church

1425 North Courthouse Road, Suite 5200

Arlington, VA 22201

The Justice Digest

Issue VI, January 2022


parisa tafti photo

A Message from

Commonwealth's Attorney

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti


Dear Friends,


As 2021 comes to a close, the core philosophy that shapes our work remains that safety and justice are not opposite but complementary values. I am proud to share our 2021 successes, ongoing projects, and goals for 2022 that are transforming our criminal legal system into one centered on our core values.  


We achieved a number of milestones in upholding fairness and justice in the criminal legal system. In 2021:

  • we did not certify a single child as an adult;
  • our behavioral health docket now allows individuals experiencing mental health crises to obtain treatment without incurring a criminal record;
  • the jail population consistently remains at its lowest level in Arlington history;
  • we formed and staffed a new Conviction Integrity Unit;
  • our office received the maximum grant from the Department of Justice to run our restorative justice program. 


At the same time, crime remains low.  In 2021:

  • Arlington County and the City of Falls Church recorded zero homicides under our jurisdiction, as compared to five in 2020, two in 2019, and four in 2018;
  • We secured indictments and convictions in all the serious cases we pursued, including convictions in two serial rape cases, convictions in three child sex abuse cases, guilty pleas in three homicide cases, with two dating back from 2018, and an indictment in a 23-year-old cold case homicide.
  • Unlike a number of jurisdictions nationwide that saw an increase in gun-related violence during the pandemic, our community is fortunate that we have not experienced a comparable increase.
  • After a temporary rise in car thefts in the first half of the year, our office helped to spearhead the formation of a regional task force, resulting in a marked decrease in car-related crimes in the second half of the year.  Most of the recent car thefts are a result of cars left unlocked, unoccupied and idling.


We did not do this work alone.  Our successes this year have been due in great part to our collaboration with  others.  I’d like to thank those who have supported and made possible our success and ongoing work, with specific credit to:    

  • The County Board and the County Manager for the resources they’ve allocated to social services, knowing that such social services, more than punitive policies, are what reduce crime;
  • The Department of Human Services for delivering services and saving people’s lives and keeping families together;
  • The Court Services Unit for their proactive work in helping at risk kids and their commitment to diversion programs;
  • The School Board and our teachers for keeping kids out of the criminal justice system in the midst of a pandemic that continues to place enormous stress on so many families;
  • The General Assembly and our local delegation for their extraordinary courage in passing criminal reform legislation;
  • Our faith community and community activists for their unsung work behind the scenes to build a safe and beloved community;
  • The Sheriff’s Office for doing the hard job of working to reduce our jail population and continuing to ensure courthouse safety and security throughout the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The Arlington County and City of Falls Church Police Departments, and other partner law enforcement agencies, for their efforts to deescalate and engaging in community policing and when they solve serious crimes through rigorous detective work;
  • The private defense bar for their advocacy in hard cases and for making sure we hold true to our principles;
  • The Public Defender and court-appointed bar for being the first, last, and best champion to stand in the breach on behalf of those who would otherwise be alone against the power of the state;
  • The attorneys and staff in our office, from whom, day in and day out, I demand more than anyone has the right to ask and who deliver more than anyone has the right to expect. 

I hope the new year brings you and your family safety, peace, and love.



Parisa Dehghani-Tafti


2021 Criminal Justice Review


We secured indictments and convictions in all serious crimes our office prosecuted:

  • We secured convictions in two serial rape cases: one in a hard-fought trial where we anticipate a life sentence and another through a guilty plea in a nearly 30-year-old series of rapes that had gone unsolved. 
  • We secured guilty pleas in three homicide cases: one in which a judge imposed a sentence of 20 years for the strangling murder of the defendant’s spouse; another in the “good samaritan” murder case, in which the judge imposed a sentence of 30 years for the killing of Patricio Salazar as Mr. Salazar attempted to thwart a sexual assault; and a third in a drive-by shooting at the Purple Lounge.
  • We secured convictions in three child sex abuse cases with sentences commensurate to these crimes against children.
  • We obtained grand jury indictments in the cold case homicide of Andrea Cincotta, which had been unsolved for 23 years.
  • We secured a guilty plea in a carjacking, in which the judge imposed a sentence of 15 years, with all but three and a half years suspended.  


At the same time as we focused on serious crimes, our office worked equally hard to uphold fairness and justice in the criminal legal system:

  • Unprecedented DOJ Grant: The U.S. Department of Justice awarded our office a $340,000 grant to support criminal justice reform and innovation. The grant is the maximum award by DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance as part of its Smart Prosecution initiative.  The grant will support staff positions in social work and data analysis. Our goal for the grant is to develop innovative restorative and diversion programs that promote public safety, reduce recidivism, and address racial disparities.
  • Disability Justice System Coalition: We created a diverse, county-wide coalition focused on reforming the developmentally disabled community’s interactions with the legal system.  The DJSC has created a multi-day training for first responders, attorneys, and court professionals to help identify people with developmental disabilities and adapt their interactions to meet the needs of these individuals in a way that is safe for them and the community; it is committed to responding to the needs of people with developmental disabilities; and the coalition supports the notion that the courts and legal system are not the best mechanisms for people with developmental disabilities to obtain support and services, as well as advocating for the least restrictive alternative consistent with public safety.
  • Conviction Review Unit (CRU): We created this new unit in 2021 that is committed to investigating wrongful convictions and wrongful sentences. We obtained funding for the unit and hired our first CRU attorney. 
  • Treating kids like kids: We did not certify a single child as an adult in the criminal legal system in Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, and worked to prevent and avoid the detention of kids who became court-involved. 
  • Behavioral Health Docket with no Pre-Plea Requirement:We celebrated the first Behavioral Health Docket graduation, where the participant received needed mental health treatment without incarceration and without requiring a guilty plea. 
  • Drug Court:  Drug Court continues to serve high risk/high need clients involved with substance abuse.  In 2021, incentives were increased to assist in motivating clients to keep up their great progress as they make strides in their recovery.
  • Preventing a Wrongful Conviction:  While dismissing a case is not traditionally considered an accomplishment by the typical prosecutor’s office, we are proud to have dismissed a case in time to prevent a wrongful conviction.  After initial investigation, one of our assistants unearthed evidence in a rape case that undermined the basis for the charge.  We fought to dismiss the case when we learned of this information.
  • Preventing Unfair Deportation: Our office helped remove the threat of deportation for a woman who had pled guilty to a non-violent drug crime after being misadvised by her defense attorney about the immigration consequences of her plea. The child of refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the individual was a legal permanent resident at the time of her arrest and looking to begin the process of applying for U.S. citizenship.  Her defense attorney told her a conviction would not be a problem for her citizenship application; in fact, a felony conviction put her at risk of deportation.  She was sentenced to time served and four years of probation. Beginning in 2004, federal immigration authorities arrested and detained her for months at a federal facility.  The only thing preventing her from being deported to Cambodia—a country in which she has never set foot—was that country accepting only a small number of deportees each year.  For more than 15 years, all under the threat of deportation, she obeyed the law, worked, raised a family, and contributed to her community.  She filed a petition for a writ of error coram vobis in the Circuit Court of Arlington County, asking the court to recognize that her plea was not knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily made because of the incorrect immigration advice she had received at the time.  Upon review of the facts, relevant case law, and both historical and modern statutes, our office supported her petition and asked the court to vacate the original conviction.  At a hearing on December 20th, with she and her family present in the courtroom, Judge Newman heard arguments on the petition and granted the motion to vacate her 2000 conviction.  The Commonwealth dismissed the charge—ending a 21-year saga and opening the door to her being able to remain permanently with her family in the United States.
  • Low Jail Population: The lowest jail population on record in Arlington was 209 inmates in June 2020, after a sustained effort at reducing the population by about 40%. This past year the jail population remained low at about 265 inmates in December. It consistently remains at its lowest levels in Arlington history.
  • No Criminalization of Poverty: We continued our policy of not asking for cash bail.  This is consistent with our belief that an accused person should be held without bond only upon a showing that they pose a danger to the community or will not return to court, but not simply because they cannot afford to pay their way out.
  • Full Civic Participation: We maintained a policy of eliminating the use of peremptory strikes in jury selection, even as jury trials picked back up this year.  This is based on findings that peremptory strikes tend to skew juries that are not representative of a fair cross section of the community and deny members of the community an opportunity to discharge their civic duties.
  • Procedural Due Process/ Open File, timely discovery: Where attorneys used to be required to come in person to our office and take manual notes, we now provide electronic discovery by email, secure link, or fast multi-media copying.  This resulted in a plea to a murder case in only six months, which was remarkably fast and illustrates a benefit of this upgrade in the discovery process. 


Victim/Witness Team Achievements in 2021


The office’s Victim/Witness team continued growing and developing its advocacy efforts this past year under the leadership of Program Director Autumn J. Edmond.  


The team provided Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) protocol training to first responders.  The training promoted collaboration, networking opportunities and an explanation of how the Victim/Witness Program assists victims of sexual assault.  In addition, Victim/Witness overview training was provided to new staff members who joined the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney this past year. 


In collaboration with Special Victims Unit (SVU) Prosecutor Lindsay Brooker, the Victim/Witness team provided training on specific legal concepts to the Arlington County Attorney’s Office, Child Advocacy Center, and Child Protective Services (CPS) colleagues. The training consisted of court terminology and understanding how a case moves through the criminal justice system and the roles and responsibilities for the parties involved. 


The Victim/Witness Team held listening sessions with partnering agencies to promote collaboration and to introduce restorative justice as an alternative solution to the survivors and clients we serve in common.  Victim/Witness team members have also continued educating themselves by participating in Restorative Arlington trainings and workshops with the goal of integrating restorative justice within the criminal justice system.   



Employee Spotlight:

Nassir Aboreden

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney


Nassir joined our team in May of 2020 and currently serves on the Special Victims prosecution team and as our Multi-Jurisdictional Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney (MJACA) for insurance fraud.  He previously worked as an assistant in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County, completed a fellowship in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria, and clerked in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in Florida.  Nassir is fluent in Spanish.


When you’re not arguing cases in court, what does your job look like?

My cases include financial and white-collar crime along with special victims. When I’m not in court I am preparing cases for trial, meeting with victims, issuing process documents like search warrants and subpoena duces tecums (subpoena for the production of evidence) or helping law enforcement investigations. 


How has the pandemic affected your experience as a prosecutor?

The pandemic has changed different aspects of prosecution for me.  I am careful to only subpoena the witnesses that are absolutely necessary for each court date so as to avoid having an overly crowded courtroom. I have also filed multiple motions for witnesses to appear remotely.


What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is also the most challenging: ensuring that the interested parties in each case have their voices heard and that those voices are taken into account when crafting a resolution. This advocacy is particularly fulfilling in child sex abuse cases, where the victims are kids and need a lot of support. 


What has been your most successful and/or interesting case in 2021?  Why?

I had the privilege of prosecuting a child sex case this year that ended in a lengthy jury trial. The victim testified by closed circuit TV after the judge granted our motion to do so.  The judge also permitted her statements at the child advocacy center to be played to the jury.


What does your role as the MJACA entail?

As the multi-jurisdictional ACA, I am responsible for prosecuting the insurance fraud cases investigated by the Virginia State Police throughout Northern Virginia. This requires traveling to the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County, as well as prosecuting insurance fraud cases in Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.


How do you define success in handling MJACA cases?

Success in an insurance fraud case is making sure the victim is made whole and the accused is deterred from committing a similar act in the future. This is almost always accomplished through a deferred disposition that avoids a criminal conviction.  


What are your collateral duties?

I am the Virginia State Police liaison. I am also in charge of the legislative update.  When the General Assembly revises the criminal code, I am responsible for educating law enforcement and other partners on those changes.


When you’re not at the office or teleworking, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy spending time with my fiancé and corgi. We love visiting new restaurants and exploring Arlington.


If you weren’t an attorney, what career would you choose?  

I would be a victim/witness advocate.