Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania announced Tuesday that he is seeking a second term.
Platania, a Democrat, was elected in 2017. His first term has seen him deal with the legal fallout of the Unite the Right rally, including the prosecution of Unite the Right car attacker James Alex Fields Jr., who was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years in 2019.
In an announcement video released on his campaign site Tuesday, the prosecutor highlighted his experience and the accomplishments his office has made over the last 36 months, including the cessation of mandatory minimum sentences in most cases, the reduction of first time nonviolent felony charges to misdemeanors, and a reduction in incarceration rates.
“Prison is reserved for those that pose a threat to public safety,” Platania said. “That philosophy has resulted in the lowest jail population in 20 years.”
Platania also highlighted his public objection to mandatory general release notifications to ICE, which he said often leads to the family separation of undocumented immigrants, and the creation of the area’s first ever therapeutic document, which offers an alternative to incarceration.
As one of 12 prosecutors in the state to join and lead Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, Platania said he has advocated for various types of judicial reform.
“We have championed statewide criminal justice reform, advocating for the automatic expungement of low level criminal convictions, the end of cash bail, and abolishing the death penalty. But as prosecutors we also have a vital role to play in keeping this community safe,” he said.
Platania was among the original attorneys at Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender’s Office in 1999 before joining the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Office in 2003.
Platania defeated attorney Jeff Fogel in a June 2017 primary and ran unopposed in the general election succeeded his former boss, Dave Chapman, who opted not to seek re-election.
In the video, Platania also gives credit to his team, whom he described as “unbelievably skilled and stable” with a combined 91 years of legal experience.
“I have a track record of proven progressive results,” Platania said towards the end of the video. “Balancing community safety with the care and treatment of offenders requires knowledge, experience and integrity.”
In order to secure the Democratic nomination, Platania will face Ray Szwabowski of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender Office.
Szwabowski, who announced his candidacy in December, has touted a desire to expand alternative treatment options for offenders that emphasize recovery over incarceration.
In response to Platania’s announcement, Szwabowski said he is running to re-examine the criminal justice system from top to bottom and to “have the community-wide conversation: Is the status quo working?”
“As a public defender in the courthouse day after day, I don’t think it is,” he said. “I’m excited for Joe Platania to join this race and this critical conversation.”
Platania and Szwabowski will face off in a primary on June 8.