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Chris Cook’s “Misunderstanding” With His Neighbor

March 15, 2011

Virginia law functions differently than most other states, just ask Vikings’ cornerback Chris Cook.

“That’s the thing about Virginia, I could say something right now about somebody and they would go after them,” said Cook.

At first glance, the meaning of Cook’s words seem cryptic. As more details emerge about his Saturday evening arrest, however, Cook’s meaning becomes clear.

Captain Ryan Zuidema of the Lychburg, Virginia police department explained due process in the state of Virginia.

“Virginia works a little bit different than a lot of states in that private citizens in Virginia can go in front of a magistrate and actually swear out a criminal warrant against another citizen and in essence that’s what happened in this situation,” Zuidema told Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Basically the information that we know is there was some type of verbal argument between Mr. Cook and this other gentleman and that gentleman went in front of a magistrate here and swore out an arrest warrant against Mr. Cook, which our officers then served on Mr. Cook.”

Virginia also differs in how crimes are charged. In Minnesota, and many other states, charges are not filed until a district attorney reviews the evidence. Upon inspection of the case, the D.A. then decides whether or not to pursue charges. In Virginia things functions differently.

“Some states you’re arrested basically on suspicion of something and then a D.A. will determine if they’re actually going to formally charge them,” Zuidema continued. “In Virginia, when you’re arrested you’re actually charged. He has been charged with brandishing a firearm. Obviously the Commonwealth attorney will still review the case. But he will have a court date that he’ll go to either way and they’ll make a determination by the attorneys.”

Cook admitted that he was angry and “screaming back” at his neighbor, but added that “nothing else came out of it.”

More details will surface as Cook has his day in court, but for now Cook labeled the entire situation as “a misunderstanding.”

After learning more about due process in Virginia, I find myself believing him.

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