De­ci­sion on dou­ble mur­derer now plagues Kaine in Vir­ginia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY PAIGE WIN­FIELD CUN­NING­HAM

Demo­crat Tim Kaine’s at­tempt while gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia to re­turn an im­pris­oned mur­derer to his na­tive Ger­many, where he likely would have been freed in two years, now looms as a key is­sue in one of the most an­tic­i­pated U.S. Se­nate races next year.

Na­tional Repub­li­cans are in hot pur­suit of records from Mr. Kaine’s last year as gov­er­nor, 2010, that they say could shed light on why he tried to re­turn Jens So­er­ing to Ger­many in­stead of al­low­ing him to serve a life sen­tence in a U.S. prison. The for­mer Univer­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent is serv­ing two life terms for killing his girl­friend’s par­ents in 1985.

“There are over 11,000 crim­i­nals cur­rently housed in the Vir­ginia state pe­nal sys­tem,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee. “We’re sim­ply seek­ing to un­der­stand why one of them, and par­tic­u­larly a con­victed dou­ble-mur­derer, was sin­gled out for le­niency by Tim Kaine, be­cause his ex­pla­na­tion [. . . ] does not add up.”

The de­ci­sion has be­come some­thing of a po­lit­i­cal nui­sance for Mr. Kaine, who qui­etly signed So­er­ing’s re­lease just days be­fore leav­ing of­fice, only to have it re­versed by Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell, a Repub­li­can.

Mr. Kaine, who last month re­signed as Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man to run for Se­nate, said at the on­set of his cam­paign that he made the de­ci­sion to save tax­pay­ers money.

He of­fered the Associated Press a sec­ond rea­son ear­lier this month: At the time, he didn’t an­tic­i­pate run­ning for of­fice again.

The ex­pla­na­tions aren’t qui­et­ing the GOP, which has Ge­orge Allen and his tough-on-crime rep­u­ta­tion on its side. Mr. Allen, who also has an­nounced a bid for the Se­nate seat of re­tir­ing Sen. Jim Webb, a Demo­crat, is widely ex­pected to win the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Mr. Allen over­hauled Vir­ginia’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem while serv­ing as gov­er­nor in the 1990s, though he is per­haps best known for abol­ish­ing pa­role.

In a race against Mr. Allen, Mr. Kaine risks ap­pear­ing soft on the is­sue, es­pe­cially af­ter com­par­ing the num­ber of par­dons is­sued by the two for­mer gov­er­nors.

Mr. Kaine granted 130 par­dons dur­ing his four-year term as gov­er­nor, com­pared with 15 for Mr. Allen.

At one point, Mr. Kaine put all state ex­e­cu­tions on hold for 15 days while the U.S. Supreme Court con­sid­ered a chal­lenge to the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of lethal in­jec­tions. He lifted the mora­to­rium af­ter the court up­held the method of ex­e­cu­tion.

Na­tional and state party lead­ers are call­ing on Mr. Kaine to re­lease doc­u­ments held in the ar­chives of the Li­brary of Vir­ginia that other­wise would re­main sealed for 75 years.

Plac­ing the is­sue solidly onto the po­lit­i­cal bat­tle­field, the Vir­ginia Repub­li­can Party two weeks ago sar­cas­ti­cally sent a records re­lease form for him to sign.

“All Tim Kaine has to do is sign it, put it in the mail and Vir­gini­ans will be able to learn much more about just how and why Kaine de­cided to let a man con­victed of killing two peo­ple in cold blood re­turn to his home coun­try for pos­si­ble early re­lease,” the doc­u­ment states.

If he has noth­ing to hide, Mr. Kaine should re­lease the doc­u­ments, said Gar­ren Ship­ley, a spokesman for the state Repub­li­can Party.

“We’re re­ally anx­ious to see Gov. Kaine fol­low through on his com­mit­ment to open­ness,” Mr. Ship­ley said. “The for­mer gov­er­nor has the abil­ity to re­lease pretty much what­ever he wants to out of his archive.”

The NRSC also is seek­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion of Mr. Kaine’s ac­tions from state and fed­eral agen­cies. Party lead­ers have ap­pealed to the Brunswick and Buck­ing­ham cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties af­ter their re­quests un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act were de­nied. Mr. Walsh said the com­mit­tee is wait­ing for a re­sponse from the de­part­ments of State and Jus­tice.

The son of a Ger­man diplo­mat, So­er­ing was con­victed by a Bed­ford County Cir­cuit Court jury of two counts of first-de­gree mur­der in a case that made in­ter­na­tional head­lines.

So­er­ing has long main­tained his in­no­cence and has writ­ten a se­ries of con­tem­pla­tive books from prison. He has said that his girl­friend, El­iz­a­beth Haysom, killed her par­ents, and that he con­fessed to spare her the death penalty. So­er­ing also has said he thought at the time that he was en­ti­tled to diplo­matic im­mu­nity and would be ex­tra­dited to Ger­many and sen­tenced as a ju­ve­nile to less than 10 years.

Now 44, he has been el­i­gi­ble for pa­role since 2003 and goes up for con­sid­er­a­tion later this year.

El­iz­a­beth Haysom’s par­ents were killed in 1985 in their Bed­ford County, Va., home. Her boyfriend took the blame, he says, to spare her from the death penalty.

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