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Journalists honored with First Amendment Awards

4/8/2014, 12:34 p.m.
The reporters' stories led to former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife charged in gifts case.

The early reporting produced an almost unprecedented response from the public - both statewide and nationally. The governor's office was flooded with emails and social media complaints about the agents conduct. He demanded a response. Civil libertarians nationally were outraged and wrote at length about the incident.

The reporting continued on the errors made by the agents and resulted in several policy changes within the department. It also resulted in a review of the events by the Virginia State Police. Some politicians are even questioning the need for the ABC law enforcement agency and urging that it should be eliminated and the duties taken over by state and local police.

Using FOIA and court records searches, Evans was able to track down emails of ABC officials and obtain copies of court records showing that the agent who was leading the raiding party had leadership issues earlier and had been transferred.

Evans wrote other stories about the agency, its policies and even described in detail the agency's purchase of an expensive major mobile command center, even though many question the need for it.

Evans' stories got statewide attention and nearly all newspapers in Virginia were highly critical of the ABC agency and its conduct. ABC officials dug in on several occasions and Evans had to use every method she could to cultivate sources and obtain documents for her stories.

"Her tenacity in uncovering the improper conduct of the agents that night in Charlottesville and her continuous reporting helped right a wrong and exposed to the public the failings of a state agency that usually operates below the radar," noted the VPA. "Evans' reporting is in the finest tradition of the watchdog journalism our founders envisioned."