DINWIDDIE, Va. (AP) — The state prosecutor handling the case against 10 people charged in the death of a Virginia man who was pinned to the floor while being admitted to a psychiatric hospital said she is resigning to attend graduate school in Paris.
Ann Cabell Baskervill told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that her resignation as the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Dinwiddie County will become effective on June 20.
Baskervill said her acceptance to a master’s program in international governance and diplomacy at the Paris Institute of Political Studies is a dream come true that coincided awkwardly with the death of Irvo Otieno.
“I had accepted the offer of admission on March 4, but then Irvo Otieno was killed on March 6 so I didn’t say anything publicly because I didn’t want it to be a distraction from the very important discussion on his case,” Baskervill said.
“It does break my heart to leave (the Otieno case) open like that,” Baskervill said. “But I know this is the right thing to do.”
Seven sheriff’s deputies and three employees of a psychiatric hospital are charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death. Publicly released video from Central State Hospital shows various members of the group attempting to restrain Otieno while he was on the floor.
An autopsy determined Otieno died of asphyxia while he was in handcuffs and metal leg restraints and held to the floor for about 11 minutes.
The family of Otieno, who was Black, has said the 28-year-old was brutally mistreated while he was experiencing a mental health crisis, both at the hospital and while in law enforcement custody for several days before that.
The family is being represented by Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who also represented the family of George Floyd and has said Otieno’s treatment has parallels to Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in 2020.
Normally when a commonwealth’s attorney resigns, the person is replaced by his or her “highest ranking full-time assistant attorney,” according to the Code of Virginia.
For months, Baskervill has been the sole prosecutor in Dinwiddie after the departure of two former assistants. The office recently hired two assistant commonwealth’s attorneys, Thomas Nicholson and Jason Moore. Nicholson started on May 1, and Moore’s first day was Thursday.
Under state code, Nicholson could accept the commonwealth’s attorney role until the November election. Alternatively, if he does not accept it, an interim commonwealth’s attorney will need to be chosen by a majority of judges in Dinwiddie Circuit Court.