An attorney who was involved in an effort to remove an elected Albemarle County official years ago has now been appointed to serve as the special prosecutor in a legal case that could see Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy removed from office.
On Wednesday, Michael Doucette, the Lynchburg commonwealth’s attorney, said he had been appointed by the Charlottesville Circuit Court to serve as a special prosecutor in the case.
The effort to remove Bellamy from office began last fall after blogger and conservative activist Jason Kessler unveiled a number of years-old tweets that many deem racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Most of the tweets were written from a period between 2009 and 2012, before Bellamy was elected to the council.
In 2013, Doucette was appointed to serve as a special prosecutor after voters in Albemarle County’s Scottsville District collected enough petitions to seek Christopher J. Dumler’s removal from the county’s Board of Supervisors.
A judge ruled against removing Dumler that summer, who earlier that year was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery. Dumler, who represented the Scottsville District, was ordered to serve a 30-day jail sentence.
Since launching the campaign to remove Bellamy from office, Kessler has made allies of a few conservative politicians, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart.
Some Confederate heritage supporters opposed to Bellamy’s calls to remove the city’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Park also have allied themselves with Kessler’s campaign.
The legal petition to remove Bellamy also alleges that he and other city councilors violated state statutes by voting to remove the Lee statue, which many believe is protected by state law. A team of lawyers seeking to keep the statue in the park is expected to file a lawsuit against the City Council soon.
In a news release Wednesday, Kessler announced that another attorney, Chuck Smith, who is seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general, has offered to assist Doucette, saying that Smith has a “special interest in the case.”
“Mr. Smith recognizes the gravity of Bellamy’s misdeeds and wants to see that the case be tried and investigated as it is due under the law,” Kessler said.
Doucette said he would seek a continuance in the case when it comes before a Charlottesville judge Thursday so that he can have more time to investigate the allegations of “misuse of office” against the city councilor.
Doucette also said he would like more time so that he can interview Kessler and confirm with the Charlottesville general registrar whether he has enough legitimate signatures for his petition.
Pam Starsia, an attorney and organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville, the city chapter of a national social justice advocacy organization, is representing Bellamy in the case. Showing up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, issued a statement last week denouncing Kessler as a white nationalist.
According to a demurrer submitted to the court Tuesday, alleging that Bellamy's offensive statements and the other allegations against him do not "provide a reasonable basis to consider removal, Bellamy's counsel is seeking the case be dismissed with prejudice.