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Gravely joins race for city prosecutor
Clay Gravely (center) announces Friday that he is running for the Martinsville commonwealth’s attorney’s job in November. (Bulletin photo)
Sunday, March 3, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville attorney H. Clay Gravely IV announced Friday that he will challenge incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar in the Nov. 5 election.
A Martinsville native, Gravely, 35, told about 25 people at the former Henry County courthouse that he wants to “do my part to ensure” that Martinsville is a safe place to work and raise a family.
Currently the principal attorney and president of the H. Clay Gravely IV, P.L.C. law firm, Gravely said he decided to enter the race after receiving “a lot of encouragement to run from people I know and respect.”
Gravely said he “really enjoyed serving as assistant commonwealth’s attorney” under Ziglar from June 2008 until he opened his practice in January 2010.
“Returning (to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office) has a lot of appeal. I enjoyed being a prosecutor. I’m in the courtroom a lot,” he said. “It’s a familiar place to me.”
He added that he has tried “hundreds of criminal cases ranging from speeding tickets to” murder in the Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County court systems.
With legal experience both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, Gravely said his background qualifies him for the commonwealth’s attorney position.
If elected, Gravely said he will conduct a “top down review” of policies and procedures of the office. He added that he will “make changes” where needed.
“We continue to face serious challenges” in Martinsville, Gravely said, and noted that he will prosecute repeat and violent offenders “to the fullest extent of the law.”
In an interview Saturday, he said crime in the city remains a challenge, though he said he applauds the “great efforts being made ... (and) the hard work being done” to combat it.
“I feel the role of the commonwealth’s attorney is to make sure everything is done to assist law enforcement in those efforts,” which he said he has done as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney and a private attorney.
“The numbers show we’ve made progress (in fighting crime); I’m not saying that’s not the case. But I acknowledge the reality that we have to remain vigilant,” Gravely added.
He also said he will work to ensure that people “who come into contact with the criminal justice system, specifically young people, make sure they don’t ever come into contact with it again,” he said. He added that he would work to do that by sending a message that there are serious consequences to breaking the law “and hope it is a lesson learned. We are a better community when people go out into their own communities and speak to reasons” why others should not get involved in crime.
“I don’t profess to have all of the answers” to problems that may be identified in Martinsville, Gravely said. However, he does hope to start conversations about the issues.
One issue that frequently comes up in commonwealth’s attorney campaigns is prosecutors’ use of plea bargains. Gravely said they are used in jurisdictions throughout the state and have to be evaluated with the strengths and weaknesses of a case.
“If those are off the table, it hamstrings anybody who is trying to do the job right,” he added.
Gravely is a descendant of the Gravely family that started the furniture company that bore its name. He is the son of Crystal Austin of Iowa and the late H. Clay Gravely III, who was president of Gravely Furniture, as was his grandfather, Harry C. Gravely.
Gravely earned his law degree in 2004 from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, where he spent two years as a senior staff member of the University of Richmond Law Review. He also was a member and chief justice of the Honor Council and a finalist in the university’s Negotiation Competition.
Gravely received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While there, he was on the Dean’s List, a member of the Honor Council and vice president of the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity.
He also attended Phillips-Andover Academy in Andover, MA.
He was an associate member of the Daniel, Medley & Kirby, P.C. firm in Martinsville; a litigation associate at Hirschler Fleischer, P.C. in Richmond; and a law clerk for Judge Jackson L. Kiser of the U.S. District Court from the Western District of Virginia.
Gravely is a member of First United Methodist Church and is either a board member or a member of several community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Martinsville-Henry County, the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Dan River Basin Association.
Ziglar announced recently she is seeking a fifth four-year term as commonwealth attorney in November.