Faced with biting criticism from Republican Prince William supervisors, Police Chief Peter Newsham on Tuesday defended his investigation into what he called a “potentially” threatening email sent to the board from a local resident that contained the subject line: “government target.”
“There’s been allegations that this investigation was done for a political purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Police Chief Peter Newsham told the board during their Sept. 7 meeting.
Newsham’s remarks came after the board’s three Republican supervisors spent nearly an hour questioning him about the police department’s response to an Aug. 3 email sent to the supervisors by Dumfries resident Robert Hand, a local gun-rights activist. The email was critical of several Democrats on the board.
Republican supervisors alleged the police chief was pressured into investigating the email by Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, and her husband, Prince William NAACP President Cozy Bailey, and questioned whether they had abused their power.
“Rev. Cozy Bailey and Supervisor Bailey, I believe, pressured you into sending a police officer to Mr. Hand’s home. Does Mr. Hand sometimes use rhetoric that is bothersome for me? Yeah, I think so. But this is First Amendment right,” Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, told Newsham.
Newsham strongly denied he was pressured by anyone into investigating the email. Newsham said his decision to investigate was primarily because of the email’s subject line, “government target.”
“I felt it was the right thing to do. I felt it was in the best interest of public safety. If we hadn't of done some kind of a review of that communication, and something terrible happened here at the McCoart building, I think I would be answering different questions than these,” Newsham said.
The investigation into the email came to light in late August after internal emails were made public showing an email chain between Andrea Bailey, her husband, Newsham, county officials and the investigating police officer.
The emails showed that Hand sent an email with the subject line “Government Target” to all eight board members on Aug. 3 just prior to an afternoon board meeting. The contents of the email were critical of Democratic supervisors but did not appear to contain any threatening language, the police investigation determined.
Supervisor Andrea Bailey forwarded the email to her husband, Cozy Bailey, who flagged the email to Newsham. A day later, a police officer questioned Hand at his Dumfries home and determined there was no threat.
Cozy Bailey said at the Tuesday, Sept. 7 board meeting that he made the complaint to Newsham because he believed “an implied threat” had been made to his wife. Andrea Bailey did not offer any comments on the matter.
“Once you put yourself in the public eye, you’re subject to attack. I can handle that. But I will not tolerate even the impression of a physical threat upon me and my family,” Cozy Bailey said.
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