The fate of the Natural Bridge Zoo animals has been decided

After a 6-day long trial the fate of the 100 animals seized from the Natural Bridge Zoo has been decided.

The jury deliberated for 10 hours as they filled out a verdict on each one of the animals according an ABC news report.

Attorney General Miyares confirms that the jury recommends that 71 of the animals remain in the care of Rockbridge County.

The remaining 29 animals will be returned to the zoo.

There are 4 giraffes being kept at the zoo simply because they are difficult to move.

The county is asking the defense to work with them to move the giraffes.

Along with that request the county is also asking for an appeal bond and payment for the care of the animals.

The county also wants unannounced inspections of the zoo for 5 years.

A post-trial hearing has been requested for April 4 to discuss the issues.

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Attorney General weighs in on student-athlete likeness ruling

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares backed a federal judge’s ruling that bars the NCAA from enforcing its rules prohibiting name, image and likeness compensation for recruits, calling it a ‘significant victory’

“Today’s decision is a significant victory in our effort to protect Virginia’s student-athletes from the NCAA’s restrictive and unfair rules,” said Attorney General Miyares said in an emailed statement Friday. “The students putting in the countless hours of hard work, sacrifice, and determination should have the freedom and capability to negotiate and benefit from their skills and abilities. Student-athletes generate millions of dollars for the NCAA, its members, and corporations within the college sports industry – it’s only fair that they have more freedom over what they earn. The NCAA has taken advantage of talented young athletes for too long.”

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AG Miyares continues campaign against gun violence

Attorney General Jason Miyares continues his efforts in Operation Ceasefire with the start of a digital media campaign.

The campaign will utilize YouTube and social media to attempt to reach young people who may be considering gang or criminal activity.

Miyares released a trailer yesterday following the announcement of the highly anticipated release of Grand Theft Auto VI.

In the teaser, he mentions that violent crime is not a game and encourages young people to say something if they see something.

Operation Ceasefire began in October of 2022 as an effort to address gun and gang violence through prosecution and prevention, as well as promoting intervention strategies and working with local communities to reduce violent gun and gang related crimes.

A link to the teaser is available here.

Attorney General’s Office announces leadership changes

Attorney General Jason Miyares announced two changes to his office.

Nicole Wittman, Deputy Attorney General of Criminal Justice and Public Safety, will join the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office as Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Theo Stamos will fill Wittman’s previous role.

Stamos currently serves as Special Counsel to the Attorney General in charge of Special Investigations, Cold and Actual Innocence cases.

Wittman specializes in the prosecution of sex crimes, crimes against children, human trafficking, domestic abuse, homicide and violent crimes.

Stamos began her career as a prosecutor in 1987 for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Arlington and Falls Church.

Most recently she spearheaded the investigation into the Virginia Parole Board and Loudoun County School Board which led to the termination of a previous superintendent and a conviction for retaliatory firing.

Wittman and Stamos joined the Office of the Attorney General at the beginning of Miyares’ tenure in January of 2022.

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AG Miyares joins lawsuit against Meta

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares joined 41 other attorney generals throughout the country in a lawsuit against Meta in federal and state courts.

The federal complaint supported by 33 states alleges that Meta knew the harmful impacts on young people who use their platform including Facebook and Instagram.

The complaint alleges Meta concealed information about the psychological and health effects of young people addicted to the platforms and utilized data of users under 13 without parental consent.

The complaint relies on confidential information but also cites publicly available information released by former Meta employees who have stated that the company profited by purposely making the platforms addictive.

Last week multiple school districts in the DC area joined forces in their own lawsuit against the company.

To view AG Miyares full press release, click here. 

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Virginia receives $80 million settlement for environmental contamination

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares reached a settlement agreement of $80 million with the Monsanto Company for environmental contamination caused by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The carcinogenic chemical compound was used in industrial and consumer products until they were federally banned in 1979.

Monsanto produced 99% of PCBs in America from the 1930s to 1977.

Over 1,300 river miles, 75,000 lake acres, and over 2,000 square miles of bays and estuaries were impaired by PCBs.

AG Miyares said “PCBs have negatively impacted nearly every living thing in Virginia. They have harmed public health, our land, wildlife, fish and our beloved waterways like the Chesapeake Bay.”

The settlement funds will be used for environmental studies, stream restoration, drinking water improvements, and other environmental causes.

To view the AG’s statement and a video of his remarks, click here.

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AG Miyares leads coalition in support of veterans’ benefits

Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares led a bipartisan coalition of attorney generals from 40 states and DC in urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of James Rudisill in Rudisill v. McDonough.

The attorney generals have declared the case a matter of protecting veterans’ rights and education benefits.

Rudisill is a Virginia resident and decorated Army veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He received the Bronze Star, one of the military’s highest accolades, for his service.

Rudisill used the GI Bill to receive his undergraduate degree after his first tour.

Following his third tour, he was accepted to the Yale Divinity School where he planned to become a chaplain and return to the military.

The VA denied his request for educational benefits which has since been overturned in multiple courts before arriving at the Supreme Court.

To view the brief, click here.

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Virginia colleges reevaluate legacy admissions

Following the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, colleges and universities in Virginia are reevaluating their policies on legacy admissions.

Virginia Tech became the second public institution in the country to announce they will no longer consider relationships to alumni as a deciding factor.

The University of Virginia is adjusting their application to allow prospective students the opportunity to write about their personal or historic connection to the school instead of simply checking a box regarding their relation to alumni.

Some institutions, like VCU, never took legacy into consideration.

Attorney General Jason Miyares recently pleaded to all state colleges to do away with legacy admissions, urging them to focus on the individual and their experiences.

Colorado became first state to ban legacy admissions at public universities in May of 2021.

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18 guilty pleas of unemployment commission fraud in VA

extended benefits program

Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares announced yesterday 18 guilty pleas to charges of obtaining money by false pretenses between March 2023 and June 2023.

A total of $212,080 was ordered in restitution to compensate got unemployment funds received from the Virginia Employment Commission due to fraudulent filings during the pandemic.

Attorney General Miyraes said, “I am proud of the work my Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit and our law enforcement partners do to ensure that those who attempt to abuse Virginia’s unemployment compensation systems are held accountable for their wrong and illegal actions.”

The guilty pleas follow the VEC’s March 2022 request for help of the AG Miyares to help prosecute fraudulent claims.

The announcement was made in result of a collaborative effort between numerous state agencies including the VEC and the Virginia Office of Attorney General Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit.

Departments conducting the investigations included the Virginia Marine Police, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Virginia State Inspector General.

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Tobacco settlement pays Virginia $137.3 million

Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that Virginia received a payment of $137.3 million from major tobacco companies like Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and others as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement.

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was originally finalized in 1998 and resolved Virginia’s lawsuit against the companies for violating consumer protection laws and deceptive marketing practices.

The payments help to cover the cost of healthcare for smoking related illnesses.

The Commonwealth has received $3.2 billion in payments to date from the settlement. 

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