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Michael Hash files lawsuit for wrongful murder conviction
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Michael Wayne Hash, the Culpeper man whose murder conviction was set aside last February, has filed a civil suit against five law-enforcement officials and a jailhouse snitch who he alleges conspired to wrongfully send him to prison for killing 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins.
The suit, filed in federal district court Dec. 28, names as defendants former Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close; three Culpeper Sheriff’s Office investigators on the case, Scott Jenkins, James Mack and Bruce Cave; chief jailer Mary Peters Dwyer and convicted drug conspirator Paul Carter.
Hash’s suit, filed through his Richmond attorney, Matthew Bosher, does not seek a specific dollar amount of damages, but asks that compensatory and punitive damages be awarded “in such amounts as the Court and jury find fair and reasonably supported by the evidence and that will deter such conduct by defendants in the future.”
The suit also seeks all legal costs incurred by Hash.
The eight-count suit alleges false arrest against Jenkins (now Culpeper’s sheriff), Mack (still an investigator) and Cave (who is retired); suppression of evidence and fabrication of evidence by Jenkins and Mack; and fabrication of evidence by Close, who resigned 12 days after Hash’s conviction was set aside.
It also alleges that all five defendants conspired to violate Hash’s constitutional rights; violation of due process by Close, Jenkins and Mack; and malicious prosecution and false imprisonment by Close, Jenkins, Mack and Cave.
Scroggins, who lived alone at Lignum, was found shot to death in her home on July 14, 1996. Her murder went unsolved for almost four years.
Then, when new Sheriff Lee Hart took office in 2000, renewed emphasis was put on solving the case and Jenkins and Mack were put in charge of the investigation.
In May of that year, three teenagers—Jason Kloby, Eric Weakley and Hash—were charged with the crime. A jury found Kloby not guilty, but Hash was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Weakley, who testified against the other two teens, received 15 years in a plea deal and is now free.
Crucial to Hash’s conviction was the testimony of Carter, who befriended Hash when Hash was transferred from Culpeper to the Albemarle–Charlottesville Regional Jail.
The suit alleges that Culpeper officials fed Carter information about the Scroggins case, which Carter used in his testimony at Hash’s trial.
It further alleges that while Close and Jenkins assured the court that they had not agreed to commute Carter’s sentence in exchange for his testimony, he was set free months after the Hash trial.
After almost 12 years in prison, Hash was released last February on a habeas corpus ruling by federal Judge James C. Turk, who was highly critical of Culpeper’s legal system in his opinion.
Hash’s suit alleges that Close, Jenkins and Mack “all sought to cover their tracks with respect to their intentional deprivation of Hash’s constitutional rights.”
A special prosecutor appointed after Turk’s opinion found no evidence to try Hash again. The Scroggins case is once again open.
Hart, who Jenkins and Close have claimed pushed the Hash case, is not named in the lawsuit.
Hash, now 33 and living in Albemarle County, is asking for a jury trial.