Thank you, Brett Phillips, founder of the Leesburg Today newspaper - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Thank you, Brett Phillips, founder of the Leesburg Today newspaper

How do I say thank you to somebody that stood by me at a time in my life when others were walking away?

How do I thank the man who put his livelihood on the line for getting the truth out to the public at great personal and professional risk?

I simply say, thank you, Brett Phillips, the founder, editor, and publisher of the Leesburg Today newspaper.

It has been 25 years since I left Loudoun County, Virginia after losing a twelve-year police career for simply doing what all law enforcement officers swear an oath to do – tell the truth.

Brett Phillips

I remember it was back in the late 1980’s, the first time I saw Brett. He was walking across the street in Leesburg headed to the Loudoun County Court House. I didn’t know who he was at the time, I would just see him now and then around the Town of Leesburg.

Wearing jeans, cowboy boots, tall and thin, with shoulder length hair with a western mustache that would have made Sam Elliott envious, I thought he was just some guy reliving the 1960’s. As a matter of fact, he would have been right at home as an extra on a western movie set.

Then one day I was at a county board of supervisors meeting and in walks Brett with a notepad in his hand and sits down. I asked the person sitting next to me who he was. I even said who is the hippie that just walked in. I was quickly put in my place by the person I asked when he snapped back and said he is no hippie, he happens to be a very intelligent man and he owns the Leesburg Today newspaper. Feeling like a jackass I just responded, oh.

Then in November 1991, my life became a living nightmare after testifying in court that the local prosecutor and a sheriff’s office captain had withheld exculpatory evidence during the trial of a man who was later convicted of attempted murder. A very long story short, I became the target of threats and harassment by the corrupt prosecutor, the county sheriff, and their underlings. That wasn’t going to sit right with one man in Loudoun County.

Enter Brett Phillips, who just a few years previous, had founded his Leesburg Today newspaper in 1988. After speaking with Brett and one of his reporters, Carolyn Green, Brett started the ball rolling, publishing one story after another on what I was going through. Brett was relentless in his papers investigative stories attacking the local prosecutor and the sheriff’s department in a quest to get to the truth.

What I didn’t know at the time and found out many years later, that Brett was putting his newspaper literally on the line. Brett had started the Leesburg Today newspaper with his own money and a group of local investors.

So, what was the problem with publishing stories involving the prosecutor, the sheriff and corruption?

Well, from what I later found out several of his investors were not happy with Brett. He was getting pressured to back off. Some of the investors were very close friends of the two people he was going after in his stories, the prosecutor and sheriff. One investor was even a relative of the prosecutor.

Brett could have just folded and caved in, but he didn’t, he stood tall amongst the pressure to back off.

Freedom of the press is one of the greatest rights we have in this country. Investigative journalism is the means we have to get to the truth. But that right will only endure if there are journalists out there, like Brett Phillips who are willing to put it all on the line for the truth.

Because of Brett Phillips, other local news outlets including the Washington Post picked up on the stories he was publishing, and believe me there were many.

The Leesburg Today newspaper also broke the story on ARGUS, the Armored Response Group United States, a private police force founded by the sheriff and a millionaire friend of his from Middleburg, Virginia. ARGUS had the backing of the US Marshals Service.

A crazy story that it was, but all true, I remember being in Brett’s office when he asked me what I knew about it and the millionaire from Middleburg who for years was driving around in an unmarked police vehicle sporting a firearm. Brett’s stories on ARGUS were the impetus that led to the end of ARGUS.

In 2006, Brett sold his beloved Leesburg Today newspaper to the Dallas-based American Community Newspapers and later left Loudoun County, Virginia settling in South Carolina.

After 25 years I tracked down Brett and contacted him last year. He has been very supportive of the stories I have written for the Baltimore Post-Examiner. Now retired and in his mid-seventies, he is still the same Brett Phillips I knew and admired a quarter of a century ago. Keep writing and get to the truth he has told me several times.

I received an email from Brett this morning. One of those messages you would hope you would never have to receive from someone you call a friend and admire. Brett is in Boston with relatives. He is scheduled to begin chemo this Thursday. He is now going to fight the battle of his life. He has the support of his family and friends and I know he is going to win this battle.

I will be praying for you, Brett. You supported me at a time in my life when others just walked away. You put it all on the line for the truth. I support you now my friend.

Brett simply ended his message, “For those of you who want to do something for me, STOP SMOKING. Love ya’ll.”

About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.
  • noelogara

    This morning you got an email from the man who rescued you from your living nightmare of just a few years and yet you blocked me only yesterday on your twitter page because I was commenting about my living nightmare of thirty nine years standing due to that wall of police corruption and the media failure to report the true facts, the same wall that you encountered and you called me a conspiracy theorist just like you were once dismissed for telling the truth. Now isn’t that a coincidence Doug?

    • Julia Clark

      Hello, would you like to file a Internet Butthurt Report?