In April, arrests were made at the site of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) near Roanoke when protesters gained access to a closed site, interfering with tree-cutting crews along the path of the pipeline. It has now been found that one of those taken into custody, a woman who sits on the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, used her state credentials and lied about being sent by the governor to be granted access to the closed site on the MVP route.
Freeda Cathcart, a well-known Democratic Party and civic activist, has denied that she used her state identification for anything other than to identify herself.
When she was arrested after a “lengthy encounter” with law enforcement officials, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Rottenborn, Forest Service officers were “frustrated” when Cathcart first indicated that she was with the governor’s administration when attempting to determine if she was there in her official capacity with the state.
During a later appearance in a courtroom, Cathcart told Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou that she presented her state credentials only as a form of personal identification. She told the judge: “I wasn’t trying to be disobedient.”
Cathcart said she originally went to the site of the closed off access road to check on the well-being of a protester who had been denied food. She wore her Board of Pharmacy ID on a lanyard around her neck to make herself easily identifiable. Cathcart added that she has Raynaud’s disease, which causes numbness in cold, more intense in wet conditions like those in Giles County that day, according to the report, and she wanted to avoid having to dig into her wallet for her driver’s license.
The board member had the business card of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources Denise Burch because she intended to report back to Burch with what she learned regarding treatment of the protester so it could be relayed to the governor.
“I never said I was there officially,” Cathcart said. “I specifically said…I was a volunteer.”
The day after Cathcart’s arrest, however, Chief Deputy of the Department of Health Professions (DHP) Dr. Barbara Allison-Bryan emailed the state secretary of health and human resources, the secretary of the commonwealth, and several other high-ranking officials with the Northam Administration that Cathcart was misusing her credentials.
“It has come to DHP’s attention that a citizen member of the Board of Pharmacy, Freeda Cathcart, used her state identification to gain access to the pipeline site yesterday afternoon,” Allison-Bryan wrote, as reported by The Roanoke Times. “In addition, she presented Denise Burch’s business card and said that she was representing the governor at Ms. Burch’s request.”
Two days after the email was sent, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson emailed a letter to Cathcart telling her she was removed from the pharmacy board “effective immediately” for using her ID badge to gain access to the closed pipeline site.
“Due to this act of misconduct, we have removed you from the Board of Pharmacy,” Thomasson wrote, according to the report. Although Cathcart’s term was set to expire next June after being appointed by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe, Northam officially removed her from her post.
Cathcart said correspondence among state officials regarding her encounter was “inaccurate.”
“I’m really sad and disappointed about how the situation was handled,” Cathcart said.
Well, that’s what happens when one uses fake namedrops and misuses their state-issued credentials for personal gain.