VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- A decision made by the number two prosecutor in Virginia Beach could lead to an alleged murderer getting off.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Vachris was fired Wednesday.
Sources told 13News Now this all concerns surround the murder trial of Leander Williams III. He was charged with killing another man in Virginia Beach in 2016.
According to sources, a piece of advice Scott Vachris gave during that trial is endangering the prosecution's case.
The news sent shockwaves through the legal community. Lawyers are trying to figure out how a well-respected career prosecutor could be abruptly fired "for mishandling a criminal matter."
Scott Vachris spent more than 20 years prosecuting crimes in Virginia Beach. The State Bar lists him as a member in good standing.
“He is very tough, but he's very fair,” said friend and colleague Mike Goodove, who has known Vachris since law school. “He takes it very seriously, his job very seriously and he does a wonderful job protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Here's what sources told us happened: The murder trial for Leander Williams III started Tuesday morning. Lawyers picked a jury and started presenting their case. Wednesday morning, one of the two prosecutors got sick and couldn't be in court.
Sources said the assistant commonwealth's attorney in the courtroom asked the judge to continue the trial, but the defense attorney objected. That prosecutor then asked for some time to talk to his superiors, but the judge said "no."
That's where sources explained Scott Vachris came in. He went to the courtroom to advise the attorney to make a motion to Nolle prosequi the charges. Ordinarily, that means dropping the case with the ability to bring it back later with new indictments.
However, because the jury was already empaneled and hearing testimony, what's called jeopardy applies, which means prosecutors can likely not bring back these charges against Williams.
“The constitution says you can't put a defendant in double jeopardy,” Goodove explained. “So, if the case starts and the prosecutor nolle prosse the case or dismisses it, it is typically dismissed with prejudice. That's just a fancy term to say with prejudice against the Commonwealth.”
This isn’t a case where the defendant will now “go free.” Williams III is already out on bond and has been for quite some time.
A hearing to figure out if there are any next steps after the Nolle prosequi motion is scheduled for Monday.
13News Now reached out to Vachris and the defense attorney in the case. We haven't heard back yet.