McAuliffe endorses prosecutor facing backlash for light sentence of sex predator

Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe could face backlash from Virginians at the polls after a prosecutor he endorsed agreed to cut almost in half the prison sentence for a convicted sex predator.

The office of Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano agreed to sentence Oscar Roberto Zaldivar to 17 years behind bars – not the 30 years that were expected.

The mother of one of his two victims was furious after learning about the sentence, saying she wants “justice” for her underage daughter, Fox News reported last week.


“I want justice for my daughter. I want to fight for her every day,” the mother told Fox News, fighting back tears.

Descano, whose office prosecuted the case, was elected in 2019 with a hearty endorsement from McAuliffe.

“It has been a blast campaigning with them,” the former governor tweeted in October 2019. “Super proud.”

Descano, in turn, has endorsed McAuliffe in his bid to retake his old seat, proudly displaying the endorsement on his website.

“Virginia’s criminal justice system has disproportionately targeted Black and Brown communities for far too long, and there is much work to be done to ensure our system treats all Virginians fairly with equity and second chances at the forefront,” Descano said.

“That’s why we need a bold leader like Terry McAuliffe…” Descano continued. “I’m supporting Terry because I know he will push for a more equitable future for all Virginians by reimagining our criminal justice system through strong reforms and second chances.”

In January 2019, during the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney race, McAuliffe said that Virginia needed “bold thinkers” like Descano and that he “understands the values of our community and has the experience to be the type of truly progressive leader.”


In May of that year, McAuliffe was a special guest at a fundraiser in support of Descano’s run for Fairfax County Commonweath’s Attorney. In a tweet that featured a picture of McAuliffe at the fundraiser, McAuliffe said, “When Steve says he will make the Fairfax CA’s Office smarter & fairer… we can trust he will get it done.” In another 2019 tweet, McAuliffe calls Descano “simply exceptional.”

Addtionally, both McAuliffe and Descano were each endorsed by the controversial left-wing group New Virginia Majority, which endorses abolishing prisons and defunding police.

In fact, New Virginia Majority is Descano’s second-highest donor, according to campaign finance records.

McAuliffe previously expressed his pride in the endorsement, touting it online, and defended the endorsement when confronted on it by Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin while speaking to the Virginia Sheriff’s Association.

“Now, first of all, sheriff, I’m proud to accept any endorsements. I get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds,” McAuliffe said. “Groups that endorse me, I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

New Virginia Majority is also actively campaigning in support of McAuliffe as he faces Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin for the governorship.

“Terry McAuliffe’s handpicked prosecutor is carrying out the McAuliffe agenda of putting criminals first and victims last, even if it hurts women and children who have been abused in the worst ways imaginable,” Youngkin campaign spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told Fox News in an email.

“It’s sickening, but that’s what you get from ‘defund the police’ politicians bought and paid for by George Soros,” she continued. “The rape rate went up every year McAuliffe was governor, and things will only get worse for Virginia women if McAuliffe has another four years to go easy on sex predators.”


The suspect, who pleaded guilty in May 2021 to multiple years of severe sexual abuse against two young girls, was sentenced on Sept. 20 to 17 years behind bars. The victim’s family tells FOX they were originally told to expect the suspect would serve potentially up to 30 years behind bars.

Descano’s chief of staff, Ben Shnider, rejected claims that the sentencing was too lenient, saying in a statement last week that “This 17-year sentence constitutes the high end of the sentencing guidelines – which means it’s a longer sentence than 75% of defendants who have committed these same offenses have received in Virginia.” 

McAuliffe’s campaign did not provide comment to Fox News.

Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.

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