Staff & Board
Michael Stone is the Executive Director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Prior to this position, he worked as a Field Organizer for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. In that role, he worked with abolition organizations in Virginia, Missouri, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania
Michael has spoken about capital punishment to faith communities and other organizations across the Commonwealth. He has also identified opponents to the death penalty among “unlikely allies” – including political conservatives and violent crime victims.
Michael also worked for 25 years in social ministry for Office of Justice & Peace for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond from 1984 to 2009.
Michael earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics and Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.A. degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College.
He is a former board member of the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Richmond Peace Education Center.
Michael has worked on issues as diverse as economic justice, affordable housing, abortion, stem cell research, assisted suicide, globalization, fair trade, immigration reform, capital punishment, and socially responsible investment.
He has been married for 27 years to Ruth Anne Young, and is the father of two young men who are 21 and 19 years of age. He is a long-time member of the Men’s Choir at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, taught Christian Formation classes to high school students, and served as the Treasurer for his son’s Boy Scout Troop.
VADP Board of Directors
Mary Atwell is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University where she also chairs the Criminal Justice department. A Virginia citizen since 1972, Mary grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Webster College and Saint Louis University. Much of her research has involved topics related to capital punishment and she has published Evolving Standards of Decency: Popular Culture and Capital Punishment (2004) and Wretched Sisters: Examining Gender and Capital Punishment (2007). She is at work on a revised edition of Wretched Sisters and on a study of the execution of foreign nationals in the United States.
Mary served on the board of VADP from 2003 to 2008. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley and of Bethany Hall, a residential drug treatment center for women in Roanoke.
RJ Bee is Senior Vice President for Operations at Hattaway Communications, where he manages day-to-day operations and leads project teams to create research-based strategies, content and campaigns for organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, World Health Organization and Packard Foundation.
Before joining Hattaway, RJ consulted for businesses, political candidates and nonprofit organizations — including the National Democratic Institute, Borrego Solar and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
RJ earned a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in political science from The Ohio State University.
Nicholas Cote is the founding President of Right Way Forward Virginia, a nonpartisan libertarian advocacy organization dedicated to promoting liberty, dynamism, and equal rights. He is also currently the Director of Donor Communications for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and a former board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia. With experience and networks in libertarian and conservative politics, he is particularly interested in engaging the political “right” about alternatives to the death penalty. Nicholas graduated from Providence College in 2008 with a B.A. in political science and American studies.
Emma Johnston serves as the Associate Minister for Discipleship at a United Methodist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. She recently graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC and looks forward to working with VADP.
Kristina Leslie is an attorney with the Capital Defender Office, which exclusively represents those charged with capital murder at the trial level in Northern Virginia. Prior to that, she worked as a public defender in Baltimore City for four years.
Kristina is a graduate of Washington & Lee School of Law, and earned her B.A. in Psychology and History from Emory University. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Edward. They enjoy outdoor activities and renovating their home.
Adam Northup has lived almost his whole life in Virginia, including college and graduate school at the University of Virginia. He has a varied background of professional experiences ranging from an outdoor experiential educator to his current position managing financials at a Fortune 500 company. Adam has worked with non-profits in development, strategic & resource planning, financial planning, analysis & accounting, and event organization roles. He has been committed to the finding alternatives to the death penalty and a supporter of VADP for many years.
Paul O’Shea is a graduate of Marquette University’s college of journalism. His 40-year professional career consisted of assignments with corporations, public relations firms and financial services organizations. Following retirement, Paul began a 19-year involvement with the death penalty abolition movement — with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project and then the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty where he served as a director from 2004 to 2014. Paul joined the VADP board of directors in 2015.
Virginia Podboy is a Richmond native eager to provide legal services to those in the community. Virginia attended George Mason University in Fairfax graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Politics. She spent an extended semester at Oxford University’s New College, where she studied the European Union. After undergraduate studies, Virginia attended the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and graduated in 2012.
During law school Virginia interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the Appellate Division where she assisted attorneys in writing briefs and preparing oral arguments. She also clerked at Washington D.C. labor law firm Mooney, Green, Saindon, Murphy, and Welch, P.C., where she assisted attorneys preparing federal court pleadings as well as ERISA compliance oversight over several major pension and health plans. Additionally, Virginia served as Executive Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy as well as Student Bar Association Director of Communications and 3L Representative.
After graduating law school, Virginia worked for two years as a lobbyist for the Virginia Catholic Conference in the areas of poverty/public benefits, health care, housing, and criminal justice. Virginia is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking as well as spending time with her husband and their dog, Tort.
Ewan Watt is the senior manager of external relations at the Charles Koch Institute where he focuses primarily on coalition development around criminal justice reform. Before joining the Institute in 2013, Ewan worked running public affairs campaigns in London and Washington, D.C. on issues such as privacy, telecoms, and international trade. A native of Scotland, he is a graduate in politics and international relations from the University of Aberdeen. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and son.
President of the Board
Born and raised in Virginia, Kent is a 1971 graduate of William and Mary with an AB in philosophy. He worked in Richmond as an advocate for progressive issues for nearly 40 years, first for environmental reform (Bay Committee) and later for the rights of persons with disabilities (Goodwill Industries) and racial fairness in housing (Housing Opportunities Made Equal, where he was executive director for five of his ten years with the organization). From 1987 to 2012, Kent was employed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the last 23 years as executive director. At the ACLU, Kent helped to establish Virginians to Abolish the Death Penalty, VADP’s predecessor that formed in the late 1980s. In 1998, he secured a grant to produce the first comprehensive study of the death penalty in Virginia, Unequal, Unfair and Irreversible, which was followed by Broken Justice, a second critique of the death penalty by the ACLU. Importantly, the ACLU recognized VADP as the state’s preeminent voice for death penalty reform and provided free office space and clerical support for its Richmond operations for nearly ten years as a means of advancing the shared objectives of the two organizations.
Kent has been married to Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, since 1984. He has two step-daughters and six grandchildren.