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Judge: sheriff can fire deputy who supported opponent

FILE - Sheriff Chapman, Detective McCaffrey, and Major Richard Fiano take a photo when McCaffrey was recognized by the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney & the Victim Witness Program for his relentless pursuit of justice for victims of crime in April 2013 (Photo: Loudon Co. Sheriff's Office)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a northern Virginia sheriff was within his rights to fire a high-ranking deputy who supported an opposing candidate.

Deputy Mark McCaffrey sued Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Simpson after he opted not to reappoint McCaffrey when Simpson won re-election in 2015.

McCaffrey was fired after supporting Simpson’s opponent in the GOP primary, Eric Noble.

In his Oct. 12 opinion, Judge Anthony Trenga said precedent in the Fourth Circuit makes clear that sheriffs can fire deputies who choose to support other candidates when the deputy holds a senior “policymaking” position. Trenga said McCaffrey, who served as lead detective on major cases including murders, qualifies as a senior policy maker.

McCaffrey has appealed the judge’s ruling to the federal appeals court in Richmond.

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