A civil engineer for the Fairfax County government has been accused of soliciting sex from an underage boy online.
Francesco Lauretti, 46, of Vienna, was allegedly caught in a sting operation for a felony charge regarding computer solicitation. Police say he proposed sex with a minor under 15 years of age and was arrested March 30, about a week after the alleged offense.
Following an arraignment on March 31, the Fairfax County General District Court held a preliminary hearing last Wednesday (June 16) and moved the case to the county’s circuit court for a grand jury to determine if there is probable cause.
Lauretti has been on paid administrative leave from his job with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation since March 31 “pending the outcome of an ongoing internal investigation,” according to the county.
An attorney for Lauretti argued that he should be released without a bail stipulation that required him to not use the internet, a restriction that can be imposed on other defendants.
The attorney said in a court filing that Lauretti has been seeing telehealth providers virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an internet ban would also result in the defendant’s imminent unemployment.
His current attorney, Michael Sprano, said he did not have any comments to make presently.
The charge is a Class 5 felony that involves using a communications system or other electronic means to solicit “with lascivious intent” a person that the accused knew or had reason to believe was a child less than 15. If the offender is more than 7 years older than the child, as in this case, a conviction carries a minimum prison sentence of five years.
According to a court document filed earlier this year, Lauretti has a wife and kids.
Photo via Google Maps
A former Oakton High School student will get another day in court after a three-judge panel ordered a new trial in her lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board over school officials’ handling of a sexual assault report in 2017.
In an opinion released yesterday (Wednesday), Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn Jr. and Stephanie Thacker reversed a judgment rendered by a jury in 2019 and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for a new trial, stating that the lower court incorrectly defined the legal standard to determine whether officials knew about the reported assault.
“We hold that a school’s receipt of a report that can objectively be taken to allege sexual harassment is sufficient to establish actual notice or knowledge under Title IX — regardless of whether school officials subjectively understood the report to allege sexual harassment or whether they believed the alleged harassment actually occurred,” Wynn wrote in the majority opinion.
A third judge on the panel, Judge Paul Niemeyer, wrote a dissenting opinion that Fairfax County Public Schools is not liable under Title IX — the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education — because its conduct was not so indifferent that it caused or amounted to discrimination.
Identified in court documents as Jane Doe, the plaintiff argued in a complaint filed against the school board in 2018 that FCPS administrators and employees did not meaningfully and appropriately respond to her report that a fellow student sexually assaulted her during a school band trip.
A junior at the time, Doe said she “struggled academically, emotionally, and physically” as a result of the experience, alleging that school officials suggested she might be disciplined for the incident and did not inform her parents about her report or the result of the subsequent investigation, according to Public Justice, the nonprofit representing her.
A jury in Alexandria determined in August 2019 that Doe had been assaulted and that the experience affected her education, but they found that the school board could not be held liable because it didn’t have “actual knowledge” of the assault, a term some jury members later said they found confusing.
That confusion became the basis for Doe’s appeal of the ruling, which came before the appeals court for oral arguments in January.
“I’m so grateful that the Fourth Circuit is sending my case back for a new trial, and recognized that Fairfax’s legal arguments would lead to ‘absurd results’ for student survivors like me,” Doe said in a statement provided by Public Justice. “It means a lot to me that the appeals court’s strong opinion will protect other survivors. Every student deserves to feel safe in school.”
An FCPS spokesperson said yesterday that the school system “respects the court’s decision” and was in the process of reviewing the opinions.
Public Justice attorney Alexandra Brodsky, who delivered the plaintiff’s arguments before the Fourth Circuit, said in a statement that the appeals court’s ruling makes clear “ignorance is no defense to violating students’ rights.”
“FCPS’s behavior — dismissing a student’s report of sexual assault out of hand — is too common among school districts across the country,” Brodsky said. “The Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Jane Doe’s case should serve as a warning that all schools must train staff to recognize and address sexual harassment.”
Wolf Trap Goes Full Capacity Starting in August — Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts will return to full capacity in August for the second half of its summer season. Unveiled yesterday (Tuesday), the lineup for August and September includes Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Indigo Girls, and Renée Fleming with the National Symphony Orchestra. [Patch]
Justice Department Will Assist in Bijan Ghaisar Case — The Justice Department will allow FBI agents to cooperate in the prosecution of two Park Police officers charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar in 2017. The move reverses a decision made during the Trump administration and could help the Fairfax County prosecutors on the case. [The Washington Post]
Longtime McLean Hardware Store Owner Dies — McLean Hardware owner Glenn Kirby Wiggs died on June 5 at Medstar Washington Hospital Center at 71 years of age. He had operated the store for almost 40 years after purchasing it in 1984, and he continued visiting twice a week from his home in Frederick, Maryland, even as his health declined. [Patch]
Merrifield Student Advances in Spelling Bee — Akshita Balaji of Merrifield is one of 30 students to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s semifinal round after she spelled two words correctly and gave an accurate definition for a third word during yesterday’s quarter-finals. Broadcast on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. on June 27, the semifinals will determine the 10 to 12 spellers who will go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., for the finals on July 8. [Inside NoVA]
1st Stage Celebration Sold Out — Tickets for 1st Stage’s first in-person event since February 2020 have sold out. The theater company’s June 27 outdoor concert reading of “A New Brain” at The Boro will still be available for other viewers to watch via an online livestream. [1st Stage/Twitter]
Memorial Day is just around the corner on Monday (May 31), and the federal holiday will bring a few closures of public buildings in the Tysons area.
Fairfax County Government:
- County government offices will be closed on May 31.
Fairfax County Courts:
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on May 31.
Town of Vienna
- Town offices will be closed all day.
- The Vienna Community Center hours will change to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 31.
- The holiday will not affect waste collection. Residents scheduled for pick-up on Mondays can place their waste by the curb as normal.
City of Falls Church:
- All city offices and services, including City Hall, the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, and the Community Center will be closed.
- Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for Memorial Day.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:
- All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
- All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
- Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site grounds will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for strolling, but all the buildings will be closed.
- The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on May 31.
- The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- The McLean Community Center will be closed for Memorial Day.
- Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service schedule. Check the link for details on specific routes.
- WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Sunday service schedule.
County Trash and Recycling:
(Updated at 8:45 a.m.) School Board Member’s Israel Comments Sparks Debate — Fairfax County School Board Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish’s tweet criticizing the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians during recent air strikes has drawn strong reactions. More than 100 people showed up to the board’s meeting on Thursday (May 20) to support her, arguing that criticism of Israel’s policies isn’t inherently anti-Semitic, while others have called for her resignation. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington rescinded an honor it intended to bestow for her religious equity advocacy. [Patch]
Arrest Made in Recent Tysons Commercial Burglary — Fairfax County police reported five different burglaries at businesses in Tysons on May 15 and 16, including incidents at ServiceNow and Koons Chrysler. A man from D.C. was arrested and charged in a string of three burglaries that occured on May 16 at Best Buy, Safford of Tysons Corner, and a T-Mobile store. [Sun Gazette]
Lawsuit over TJ Admissions Moves Forward — “A federal judge ruled Friday that a parents’ group can move forward with a lawsuit alleging that new admissions policies at an elite public high school in northern Virginia discriminate against Asian Americans…Asian Americans constitute more than 70 percent of the [Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology] student body, and for decades Black and Hispanic students have been woefully underrepresented there.” [WTOP]
Gallows Road Reduced to One Lane Tonight — “Gallows Road over I-66 will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction during overnight hours Monday, May 24, through Saturday, May 27, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night. The southbound side of Gallows Road will be closed with two-way traffic running on the northbound side. The closures are necessary for utility work on the bridge as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.” [VDOT]
Reminder: McLean Central Park Meeting Tonight — Fairfax County will hold a virtual public information meeting at 7 p.m. today to share a development concept for McLean Central Park. Based on a master plan that was last revised in 2013, potential new facilities for the 28-acre public park on Dolley Madison Boulevard include a dog park, an ampitheater, and trail improvements. [FCPA]
McLean Resident Killed in Hit-and-Run — 43-year-old Allen Romero died on Sunday (May 16) after being hit by a 2011-2015 Ford Fusion while crossing eastbound Leesburg Pike just before the Redberry Court intersection in Great Falls. Officers responded to the scene around 5:21 a.m. and are now looking for witnesses. This is Fairfax County’s fifth pedestrian fatality so far in 2021. [FCPD]
Man Stabbed in Tysons Galleria Area — A man was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after being stabbed during an argument in the 1700 block of International Drive around 7:56 p.m. on May 7, police say. 40-year-old Atef Shaker-Armanuos of Falls Church was arrested and charged with malicious wounding. [FCPD]
Hearing Scheduled in Bijan Ghaisar Case — “A federal judge in Alexandria on Friday set Aug. 23 as the date for a hearing on whether manslaughter charges against two U.S. Park Police officers, for the 2017 fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, should be dismissed. A Fairfax County prosecutor told the judge the hearing could last five days.” [The Washington Post]
Live Music Returns to The Boro — “Get your dancing shoes ready — live music is back at #TheBoroTysons! Plan an alfresco evening complete with free music from local performers every Thursday, 5:30pm-8pm this summer, starting on June 3rd.” [The Boro/Twitter]
New Soccer Field Opens on Graham Road — Fairfax County officials, including Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and School Board Representative Karl Frisch, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (May 15) for a new soccer field at the Graham Road Community Building in Falls Church. [Rachna Sizemore Heizer/Twitter]
Vienna Resident Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering — A Vienna resident pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to a money laundering scheme tied to the terrorist group Hizballah. Prosecutors say the decade-long scheme was deployed to ship electronics equipment to a television station in Lebanon. [Patch]
Spring Hill Turf Field to Be Replaced — Spring Hill Park in McLean will undergo maintenance work starting on June 21 to replace a synthetic turf field. Work hours will be limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, though the contractor can work on Saturdays to avoid project delays if there is inclement weather. The project is expected to be mostly complete by Labor Day. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Maryland to Downscale Beltway Project — The Maryland Department of Transportation will limit its planned Capital Beltway expansion to the construction of a new American Legion Bridge and the addition of two toll lanes in each direction on the bridge from I-270 to I-370. The project is considered critical to the success of Virginia’s 495 NEXT project to extend the I-495 Express Lanes to the bridge in McLean. [DCist]
Longfellow Finishes Second in National Quiz Bowl — “A quiz-bowl team from Longfellow Middle School finished second in the nation in the 2021 Middle School National Championship Tournament, held online the weekend of May 1. Longfellow’s “A” team made it 20 rounds into the competition before losing to the eventual champion, the “A” team from Winston Churchill Middle School of Carmichael, Calif.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause Lifted — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration determined Friday (April 23) that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine should resume. Its use was halted on April 13 due to reports of rare blood clots in 15 cases out of the 8 million people who have received the vaccine. [Patch]
Smoking Materials Caused Vienna Fire — A building fire in the 100 block of Church Street in Vienna on April 22 was the result of improperly discarded smoking materials. The fire caused about $18,750 in damages, but no one was displaced or needed medical assistance. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Bijan Ghaisar Case Moved to Federal Court — A federal judge decided on Friday that the case against two Park Police officers who shot McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar after a vehicle pursuit in 2017 should be moved from state to federal court, where the defendants’ attorneys hope to have the case dismissed. A Fairfax County grand jury indicted the officers on manslaughter charges in October. [DCist]
McLean District Police Report Commercial Burglaries — The Fairfax County Police Department reported three commercial burglaries in the McLean District in its most recent weekly recap. The incidents occurred at CosmoProf (2976 Gallows Rd.) on April 16 and at Merrifield One Hour Photo (2833 Gallows Rd.) and Tobacco Plus 1 (7640 Lee Highway) on April 17. [FCPD]
Strong Winds Take Out Power for Thousands — About 4,000 people across Northern Virginia lost electricity yesterday (Wednesday) due to strong winds that prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Wind Advisory for the D.C. area until 8 p.m. More than 1,000 people in the Vienna/Oakton area in particular were affected, according to Dominion Energy’s outage map. [Dominion Energy/Twitter]
Vienna Resident Dies in Route 29 Crash — Vienna resident Michael K. Ratzenberger was one of two drivers killed on Sunday (April 18) in a head-on crash on Route 29 in Culpeper County. Virginia State Police said he entered the highway in the wrong direction when his car collided with another vehicle driven by Jose B. Hernandez Solis, 50, of Culpeper. The crash also left four passengers in Solis’s vehicle seriously injured. [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Judge Orders Release of D.C. Firefighter — “A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge has overturned the 2019 conviction of a Black D.C. firefighter, saying the case was built on false representations from the arresting county police officer.” [WTOP]
Falls Church Little League Awarded Grant for Batting Cages — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board voted on April 14 to approve the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League’s request for $12,737.25 in grant money to construct three hitting stations adjacent to field 2 at Idylwood Park. It was one of three grant requests approved at the meeting. [FCPA]
Madison Field Hockey Team Advances to State Finals — James Madison High School’s field hockey team is going to the state finals after beating W.T. Woodson 2-0 on Tuesday (April 20). A state championship win would be the first for the school’s field hockey program, according to head coach Carrie Holman. [LocalDVM]
Photo by Joanne Liebig
(Updated at 9:50 a.m. on 4/21/2021) Local officials and organizations expressed relief at the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd, while also reiterating a need to address inequities and discrimination within the criminal justice system.
Yesterday (April 20), Minneapolis, Minn., police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter for killing George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by kneeling on his neck. Captured on video, Floyd’s murder spurred protests against police brutality around the world, including in Fairfax County.
Within minutes of the verdict, the Fairfax County Police Department and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay shared their separate statements together.
Notably, FCPD’s statement does not specifically mention the trial or the guilty verdict, but does speak to their ongoing reform efforts and repairing trust in the community.
Del. Mark Keam, who represents the 35th District, including the Town of Vienna, said that the jury’s verdict “confirmed what the world witnessed.”
— Mark Keam (@MarkKeam) April 20, 2021
The Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP released a statement earlier in the day calling for peace no matter the verdict.
After the guilty verdict were announced, the organization re-posted NAACP national’s message on Facebook, which read:
“Justice has prevailed in the case against #GeorgeFloyds killer #DerekChauvin, but the work is not done! We must keep fighting to end qualified immunity, and we must get #PoliceReformNOW.”
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano tweeted that the verdict was “a first step toward justice and accountability,” but he also called Chauvin’s trial “a dramatic reminder of the pain countless Black Americans experience as a result of a justice system that too often devalues their lives.”
Those of us who wield power in this system have a responsibility to learn from & be responsive to this pain. In Fairfax County, I will continue to serve as the independent check on the justice system the community deserves & hold police who abuse their power accountable. 2/2
— Steve Descano (@SteveDescano) April 20, 2021
Several of Fairfax County’s Congressional representatives said via social media that they agreed with the verdict.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton called it “a good day for justice.” Rep. Gerry Connolly wrote that the verdict was “just,” adding that “far too many Black lives have been cut short” and “we owe them real, structural change.”
“The jury confirms what we saw: Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Rep. Don Beyer said on Twitter. “I’m thinking about George Floyd, his family and friends, who have been through such much.”
Wexton and Sen. Mark Warner urged their colleagues in Congress to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would require police to wear body cameras, establish a national registry for records of police misconduct, and limit qualified immunity as a defense in civil lawsuits against law enforcement officers, among other reforms.
Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, reached out to the Fairfax County Police Association for comment but has yet to hear back as of publication.
Acknowledging that students and staff may be “experiencing a range of emotions” in response to yesterday’s verdict, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand shared a list of resources for families and teachers to facilitate discussions about racism and help children “navigate this challenging time.”
“We must be fearless to bring forth change to ensure that our students and staff can learn and work in an environment where racism and hate are not tolerated, and all feel safe, valued, and included,” Brabrand said.
Photo by Nick Papetti