Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen opposing a proposal to honor as a “hero” a federal agent facing second-degree murder charges in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The delegate’s opposition was voiced in a letter she wrote to her House colleagues in response to a proposed resolution by Rep. Christopher Lee, R-NY.
Lee is the hometown representative of William Clark, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who had been stationed on St. Thomas in 2008 when he became involved in a domestic violence incident that took the life of a man.
According to V.I. Police, Clark shot and killed a man in the Mahogany Run area. The victim was the domestic partner of a woman who had contacted Clark for assistance. The circumstances of the incident caused the V.I. Department of Justice to file the second-degree murder charges against the agent.
Lee has circulated a letter seeking support for a resolution honoring Clark in light of what he has termed “unjust prosecution for murder in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” a statement Christensen took strong exception to.
“I believe this request is an inappropriate attempt to have the U.S. Congress take a position in a matter that is rightfully before the courts,” she wrote. “While I understand Rep. Lee’s passion in defending his constituent, the facts do not support his portrayal of the events surrounding the incident and the actions taken by the Virgin Islands criminal justice system as regards this case.”
According to Christensen, the U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General interviewed several witnesses, including an attorney, a former prosecutor and a security guard, before concluding Clark used “excessive force.” The attorney general and local and federal courts have determined that Clark was not acting within his authority as a federal agent when the incident occurred.
Congresswoman Christensen also challenged Lee’s characterization as “nonsensical” court rulings establishing that Clark was not entitled to immunity.
“As the Congressional representative of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, I can tell you that the application of federal law in the territories is a matter that is constantly up for interpretation by the courts,” Christensen wrote. “U.S. Virgin Islanders are proud Americans, but often find ourselves inside or outside federal jurisdiction based on a complicated set of treaties and legal opinions.”
Christensen asked her colleagues not to jump to conclusions on this matter.
“Do not support this resolution, which would be no more than a public relations tool to provide support for a defendant before the court,” she wrote. “The people of the Virgin Islands believe in the American system of justice and believe that Agent Clark will receive a fair hearing before the courts,” she concluded.