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Magistrate turns down Portsmouth civil rights leaders' attempt to file charges against city council members

Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd and local community leaders wanted to take out charges against city council members Bill Moody and Elizabeth Psimas.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Portsmouth Magistrate's Office dismissed local civil rights leaders after they attempted to file charges against two city council members as fallout from a controversial police investigation into the Confederate monument protest continues.

James Boyd, the leader of the Portsmouth NAACP chapter, and other community leaders went to the Portsmouth Magistrate on Friday to take out charges against Bill Moody and Elizabeth Psimas. The magistrate said they were unable to.

“The purpose of the magistrate is not to interpret the law," said NAACP Vice President Louie Gibbs. "The purpose of the magistrate is to find the probable cause for the law to be interpreted. He decided he didn’t want to do that."

Boyd was one of 19 people who was slapped with felony charges for his alleged role in vandalizing the Portsmouth Confederate monument in a protest on June 10.

Other notable figures who were charged include State Senator Louise Lucas, several city public defenders, and a school board member.

Many community members were stunned by the charges and demanded that Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene immediately resign from her post.

Lucas' daughter, Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke, was one of those people. She ended up being charged with violating the city charter after she and other community leaders pressed then-City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton to call for Greene's resignation. Pettis Patton placed Greene on paid, administrative leave.

"The double standard continues," Gibbs said. "Here we are again in a city where you can blow and it will come up against a minority or a Black person but when we file the same exact thing, we come into the law of double standards."

Dr. Pettis Patton stepped down from her position as city manager earlier this week before a special council session was held that would have apparently called her role into question. Council members claim they weren't part of "big decisions" made by Pettis Patton.

The council also fired City Attorney Solomon Ashby, which Mayor John Rowe said was due to communication blunders and leadership issues.

That was after Ashby sent a letter to council members citing they could be charged with misdemeanors if they chose to fire Pettis Patton. Ashby argued that firing Pettis Patton could be seen as interfering with day-to-day operations and Chief Greene's employment status. Rowe claims the city charter gives them the power to hire and fire city employees at will.

13News Now spoke with Elizabeth Psimas on the leadership overhaul, who said the poor communication issues generated a loss of confidence among council members.

“We did what we had to do to stabilize the city government,” Psimas explained.

This is a developing story.