A parent and former PTA president of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School who opposed changes to its admissions policy, then faced libel and slander charges after claiming a proponent of those changes was engaging in “grooming behavior,” garnered a large legal win this week.
Harry Jackson on Friday saw a Fairfax County judge dismiss four charges of libel and slander with prejudice that were levied against him. RightDefense.org attorney Marina Medvin in Fairfax District Court represented Jackson.
“I would like to stress this point—what makes this case unique is that criminal charges were brought to suppress free speech. Criminal charges! Not a civil lawsuit but criminal charges. In this day and age I believe it is the only case of its kind,” said Medvin, who was retained on the case only a week ago. “This should never have happened. But a magistrate allowed it to happen—four times. And then a Soros-funded prosecutor allowed an innocent man to be criminally prosecuted for the duration of seven months.”
Steve Descano, a Democrat elected in 2019, who has been known to be funded in a large part by Democrat billionaire George Soros, is the prosecutor to whom Medvin was referring.
Jorge Torrico, a member of the advocacy organization the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Alumni Action Group, had previously promoted admissions that eliminated standardized testing requirements and written teacher recommendations.
It was after Jackson tweeted concern in November 2020 about the alleged “grooming behavior” of Torrico that accusations were launched at Jackson.
The school’s admission policies, which were revised in December, made admission less merit-based and were instead seen by some as “race-based.” The modifications, which resulted in a historically diverse class of students offered admissions for fall 2021, were also later found by a federal judge to discriminate against Asian-Americans.
Thomas Jefferson High School is a magnet school available to students across Northern Virginia and has long been ranked as one of the nation’s top public high schools.
While Descano aimed to drop the prosecution on Thursday, Medvin instead made it a point to get the charges dismissed.
“I believe this dismissal, coupled with the publicity from this case, will hopefully restore the public’s trust in the First Amendment. Nonetheless, my work is not done. My next project is to get this law off the books. Next stop is Richmond,” she said.
As for Jackson, the outspoken Black father who has been an Olympic competitor and naval intelligence officer, was also a plaintiff in the case Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board. He told Newsweek he now sees an end to the “persecution” he’s experienced for months.
“This has been a stressful time for me and my family during these months of persecution,” said Jackson. “I feel relieved that I am vindicated and this has changed me by strengthening my resolve in my advocacy in education.”
Newsweek reached out for comment from Descano at the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
Also on Friday, a coalition of community members, parents and alumni of the school filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to vacate the Fourth Circuit’s stay in the coalition’s lawsuit challenging the school’s admissions process. Chief Justice John Roberts is assigned to supervise the Fourth Circuit.
It was in late February that U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton agreed with the coalition represented by Pacific Legal Foundation and ordered a stop to the policy. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted a stay of the district court’s decision, which allows Thomas Jefferson’s admissions process to proceed.