Loudoun County, Virginia, Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj has received death threats over her handling of the case.
In the lead-up to the extremely close Virginia gubernatorial election, Republicans have seized on a sexual assault case in a Loudoun County school, placing the county's top attorney in the crosshairs of a right-wing disinformation campaign.
In 2019, Buta Biberaj became one of the first Muslims to be elected to public office in Virginia when she unseated a Republican incumbent in the race for commonwealth's attorney for Loudoun County. In recent weeks, Biberaj been excoriated by right-wing media in attacks that have been boosted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. Article after article falsely accuses Biberaj of bungling or attempting to cover up a sexual assault, silencing the father of the victim by having him arrested, and pocketing money from investor George Soros.
On Oct. 26, a judge ruled against the 15-year-old defendant in the first of two sexual assault cases against him in Loudoun County. In the first case, the boy had been charged with assaulting a female student in a school girls bathroom. The defendant is awaiting trial in the second case and will be sentenced after it is done.
With the gubernatorial election in Virginia just days away and media coverage of Loudoun County heating up, Biberaj told the American Independent Foundation, she began receiving death threats on her personal and work cell phones as well as her office line. According to Biberaj, callers have left messages such as, "We're coming for you, bitch," "You don't have to watch your back, we're going to come at you from the front," and "You deserve everything you're going to get."
"Those individuals are highlighting the fact that I'm a woman, I'm of the Muslim faith, I'm … an immigrant," Biberaj told the American Independent Foundation. "We've had threats and comments and harsh communication from white supremacist groups. So you see that and know that this is intentionally done to rile people up in that realm."
After bringing the threats to the Virginia attorney general’s office, the Virginia State Police, and the FBI, Biberaj said she has had to reevaluate the way she lives her life in order to protect her safety.
Among those campaigning against Biberaj is VDARE, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an "anti-immigration hate website" that "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites."
On Oct. 11, VDARE published an article under the headline "White Father Arrested In Loudoun Protesting Daughter's Rape In School Bathroom By 'Teen' In Skirt. Muslim Immigrant Prosecutor Buta Biberaj Wants To Jail FATHER." The following day it shared a link to the article in a tweet that called Biberaj a "Soros-backed immigrant Muslim prosecutor who is trying to jail a white father." And on Oct. 17, the VDARE account replied to a tweet from the Youngkin campaign about ties between Biberaj and Soros and noted that she was "an Albanian Muslim immigrant from Montenegro."
Right-wing media has latched on to the Loudoun County sexual assault case as validation of a common false conservative talking point: that allowing trans people to choose the bathroom that matches their gender will result in cisgender males masquerading as trans females to assault girls in bathrooms and locker rooms. Experts have time and time again debunked claims about "bathroom predators" as a myth.
Though the boy in the case was reported to be wearing a skirt at the time of the assault, Biberaj said, he was not identified as transgender during the trial, and the assault took place after the girl had invited him to meet her in the bathroom, after which he "exceeded the permission and consent of the girl, which is what made it sexual assault," she noted.
Another right-wing talking point is the supposed persecution by Biberaj of Scott Smith, the victim's father, after his arrest by Loudoun County sheriff's deputies at a Loudoun County School Board meeting in June on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after a fight broke out among those at the meeting.
A Virginia website called the Republican Standard wrote on Oct. 27 in a supposed "fact check" that Biberaj "must have understood why Smith, who attended a Loudoun County School Board meeting on June 22 looking for answers, would've gotten upset after the district superintendent said the student suspected in his daughter's assault didn't exist. And yet, she appeared in court personally to push for jail time, a fine and anger management classes."
"The narrative just keeps changing to fit what the goal is. … If you look at everything that's out there, we knew nothing about the May 28 incident until July 9," Biberaj said. "So all those narratives are intentional disinformation."
Right-wing media has also claimed over and over that Biberaj worked to cover up the sexual assault and blamed her for placing the offender in another school where he allegedly committed another assault.
In reality, Biberaj said, her office simply asked the court that the student not be allowed to return to the same school as the girl. She said she had no say over where and how he would be placed.
As for the right-wing finger-pointing about the first case being covered up when the second assault was immediately publicized, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office released this statement on Oct. 13: "The October 6, 2021 incident at Broad Run High School did not involve complex circumstances, the arrest was immediate, and the arrest was reported to the community as information released was unlikely to disclose the identity of the victim. However, the May 28, 2021 investigation was different in that the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and a public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim."
Republican gubernatorial candidate Youngkin has called for Biberaj's resignation and demanded a state and federal investigation into the Loudoun County School Board. Biberaj said the candidate's rhetoric is intended solely to incite division.
"The most frustrating thing is, we look to our leaders to create healthy communities. When individuals take incidents like this which are harmful, hurtful, as well as traumatic to families, and you're going to take that and let that be your rally cry, just to promote something, then that means your political interests are greater than your people interests," Biberaj said. "And, that to me, is not a sign of good leader[ship], because once this election is done, I don't think Mr. Youngkin or any of the candidates may be in our day-to-day lives here in Loudoun County. But these families are still living here. The hurt that they're causing will still reside here."
She added: "That's not leadership."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.