Gov. McAuliffe commutes death sentence of Ivan Teleguz
Teleguz to serve life in prison without parole
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Thursday afternoon that he would commute the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz to life imprisonment without parole instead. Teleguz was convicted in 2006 in the murder-for-hire of his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Sipe. She was found murdered in her Harrisonburg apartment in 2001.
Teleguz’s petition to McAuliffe included a request for a pardon, which the governor denied.
“I have reviewed the petition and supporting materials submitted both from Mr. Teleguz’s attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney who prosecuted this case,” McAuliffe said during his announcement. “My office has spoken to the attorneys on both sides. We have reviewed the letters submitted from Stephanie Sipe’s family, as well as letters supporting clemency for Mr. Teleguz.”
McAuliffe said the results of this review led him to decide to commute Teleguz rather than pardoning him.
“My decision to deny Mr. Teleguz’s petition for pardon is based on my belief that the reliable evidence continues to support his conviction,” McAuliffe said. “What has come to light, however, in my review of the circumstances regarding his death sentence, is that the sentencing phase of Mr. Teleguz’s trial was flawed.”
McAuliffe referenced several false claims — including incorrect information that Teleguz was involved in another murder in Pennsylvania and was a member of the Russian mafia — made throughout Teleguz’s trial that ultimately influenced the jury’s sentencing of Teleguz.
“American values demand that every person, no matter their crime, be given due process of law,” McAuliffe said. “In this case, we now know that the jury acted on false information, and that it was driven by passions and fears raised — not from actual evidence introduced at trial — but from inference. To allow a sentence to stand based on false information and speculation is a violation of the very principles of justice our system holds dear.”
Elizabeth Peiffer, a staff attorney at the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, visited the University in March to make the case that Teleguz was innocent and encourage McAuliffe to grant clemency.