Raymond Morrogh Appointed as Special Prosecutor in Justin Wolfe Case
Prince William County commonwealth's attorney Paul Ebert recused himself from the case, after a federal judge said the initial trial was filled with "hearsay and speculation."
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Morrogh will act as special prosecutor when the state again tries Justin Wolfe, of Chantilly, for allegedly ordering the 2001 murder of Centreville's Daniel Petrole Jr.
Prince William County Circuit Court Judge Mary Grace O'Brien confirmed Morrogh as the prosecutor Friday, a day after Prince William County prosecutors moved to recuse themselves from the case.
"I thought it was appropriate for a special prosecutor," O'Brien said.
Given the circumstances around the case, the move to appoint a special prosecutor was expected. Last year, a federal judge reprimanded Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Conway for their conduct at the previous trial. U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that prosecutors witheld evidence that was crucial to Wolfe's defense. A federal appeals court affirmed his decision in August.
In O'Brien's courtroom Friday, Morrogh confirmed that he would proceed with new charges against Wolfe. The retrial will begin Oct. 15th.
“His testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and the police reports—it seems to me that this defendant was absolutely involved in this murder. He planned it and caused it to occur. He did it out of greed,” Morrogh said. “Justin Wolfe is many things, but innocent is not one of them.”
Defense attorney Matthew Engel, a lawyer with the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia, said that he took no issue with Morrogh personally, but he was concerned that Ebert had requested the selection.
"In a case where the elected commonwealth's attorney feels it's inappropriate for him to handle the matter, we feel it's also inappropriate for him to select the special prosecutor," Engel said.
O'Brien said that Morrogh would have been her choice either way. She said that the appointment would avoid delaying future proceedings. Morrogh also has the advantage of being located nearby and has experience working on similar cases.
Morrogh—who declined to comment on Friday morning—has previously worked on high-profile cases, including for capital murder. Recently, he was appointed special prosecutor for a murder case in Culpeper and elected not to prosecute.