Update Regarding Jessamine Court

Thursday, October 07, 2021

​VIRGNIA BEACH, Va. -- There has been overwhelming concern in the disturbing and reprehensible situation that occurred between neighbors residing on Jessamine Court. Police Chief Paul Neudigate had the opportunity to speak directly with the complainant in this case today. “I was pleased to hear from her that the horribly offensive behavior voluntarily ceased as of Sept. 23 and has not reoccurred,” said Chief Neudigate. “I assured Ms. Martinez that the Virginia Beach Police Department will continue to assist with her concerns, and she should not hesitate to call if the behavior recurs.” While gaining voluntary compliance is a fundamental principle in law enforcement, we understand some people believe the actions of Ms. Martinez’s neighbor should be punished criminally; however, a thorough investigation was conducted by the Virginia Beach Police Department, and the City Attorney, Magistrate, and Commonwealth’s Attorney are all in agreement that the behavior does not rise to the level of a crime under Virginia statutes. The VBPD will continue to monitor the situation and if this conduct arises in the future, it will again evaluate the facts and evidence and take whatever steps possible to bring it to an end. Additionally, the VBPD has continued to explore other avenues of redress, including contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see if there was anything actionable from a Federal standpoint. In the meantime, the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office has begun an investigation into this matter; the VBPD is prepared to assist with any information we may have that will assist their Office with a long-term resolution. It’s important to note that Virginia’s hate crime statute is not a punitive statute but rather provides the definition of hate crime that can then be used to escalate punishment under other criminal statutes

The courts have consistently held that criminal laws that have the potential to punish speech must be subjected to exacting standards. The Supreme Court of the United States has expressed it this way: “Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought we hate.” Many court cases make it plain that criminal statutes affecting speech may only criminalize words that constitute true threats or are reasonably likely to provoke an immediate breach of the peace. The sounds, lights and words displayed from within the home on Jessamine Court, while offensive and unacceptable, do not meet that standard. Therefore, the current evidence does not support a criminal charge. 

Timeline Summary:

Oct. 07, 2020 First 911 call for service on Jessamine Court. Officers responded for a loud noise complaint. Officers did not witness a loud music violation but did speak to an occupant of the residence and requested they keep the music down.

Between 10/7/2020 and 9/22/2021 VBPD responded to seven additional calls for service from the complainant regarding nuisance conduct (loud banjo music). In these instances, the officers observed no loud music and they gained voluntary compliance from the occupant to turn down the music.

Sept. 23, 2021 VBPD received the video segment that contains segments of a television show that repeatedly uses a racial slur, as well as accompanying animal sounds. The VBPD immediately consulted the Virginia Beach City Attorney’s Office for legal guidance regarding enforcement actions involving First Amendment issues. 

Sept. 24, 2021 VBPD captain visited the location and spoke with the complainant from the previous calls. Observed a low level of noise which was only audible while standing directly next to an open window from which the sound was emanating. The captain did not hear any racial slurs being played. 

Sept. 29, 2021 Despite having been advised there was no criminal violation, VBPD detectives voluntarily responded back to the neighborhood and engaged both the complainant and the neighbor. During this interaction, they received a verbal commitment from the neighbor not to resume the previous activity.