Sunday, March 30, 2014

UVA Innocence Project: John Grisham, Edgar Coker Jr., Brian Banks and Michael Hash

Exonerated men share their sagas    By Pamela Gould              March 29, 2014

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Six weeks after being exonerated of rape and getting his name removed from Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry, Edgar Coker shared the spotlight with NFL free agent Brian Banks and novelist John Grisham. 

It was a dramatic turn of events for the former Stafford County resident who spent the past seven years shunning attention because of the label of rapist legally attached to his name. 

But in Banks, Coker found someone who understood. 

“It’s a relief to finally find someone who knows what I actually went through, being locked up for nothing. That’s special,” said Coker, 22. 

Both Banks and Coker were teens when they were accused of rape by an acquaintance. For both, it was the accuser’s recantation that started the exoneration process rolling. 

And for both, it was the work of an Innocence Project that led to their names finally being cleared. 

That’s what brought Banks, who lives in Los Angeles, and Coker, an Orange County resident, together this week and what led to them being seated on either side of Grisham on Wednesday evening for an Innocence Project fundraiser at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Aging, Disabled and Alzheimer’s Ridden Registered Sex Offenders Face Prosecution and Prison in Virginia for Being Unable or Forgetting to Register

The below situation (see article below) is NOT the first time an aging RSO has been prosecuted for forgetting to register on time, it’s just the first time such an example has made the newspaper. 

Over the last 5.5 years I have advised the Virginia Delegates and Senators of Virginia State Police registration letters being delivered late, with only a few days to act and not at all. I have advised them of the VSP refusing to answer basic questions about registration or traveling for work or vacation. Also when the VSP has refused to take a new photo or forgetting to take it during the visit and then threatening a new felony if the offender doesn’t return in 3 days. 

I have also emailed them on the issues of requiring juveniles, autistic people, mentally disabled people and senior citizens, people with Alzheimer’s and people who are hospitalized or in assisted care ability to reregister on time or at all. That RSO's in these situations are unable to drive to a VSP location to re-register per the Virginia law.  Their disability, their recent physical disintegration and their inability to remember basic activities and due dates would all lead to a new felony and possible prison time. 

2-3 years ago I actually submitted a FOIA to the VSP asking them for the numbers of offenders with Asperger’s, Alzheimer’s, those who are detained to a wheelchair and detained to a bed. I asked for this information because the VSP visits every offender twice a year so they would have direct access and because I wanted to know how many offenders were possibly facing future unnecessary prosecution due to their disability. My request was denied. 

The questions I’ve posed weren’t a “what if”, they are reality and yet not one Virginia Legislator has proposed a bill to work with disabled and aging offenders or requested to meet with me to discuss these issues that I regularly raise. 

I even had a Delegate contact me 2-3 years ago because there was an elderly RSO in a Virginia hospital (in their district) who need to be moved to an assisted living facility and every center near his home refused to accept him because he was an RSO. The only facility that would take him was hundreds of miles from his home so for more than a month he remained in the hospital not receiving the needed rehabilitation. 

Please Email or call  your one Virginia Delegate and Senator today.
  • Ask them if they have read this article
  • Ask them if they remember Mary Devoy’s email’s on this issue
  • Ask them to work on new legislation for 2015 so that an elderly or disabled Virginian who has no intent to commit a crime doesn’t face unnecessary prosecution and time in prison. All is a waste of our tax dollars plus the rapid decline or even death of a senior citizen who can not get the medical care they need and deserve while in prison.

If you are thinking why should I bother contacting them, think about this. You or your loved one who is an RSO at some point could be injured and unable to drive a car, you or they could be bed ridden or you or they could be one of the 5.2 million Americans who develop Alzheimer’s and won’t remember they are an RSO or that you need to register. 

There but by the grace of god go I. 

Thank you. 

Mary Devoy 

Norfolk case highlights aging sex offenders debate         By Louis Hanson      March 30, 2014

Willie Jefferson Combo Jr. arrived at Norfolk Circuit Court on a cold December morning, guilty and worried.

On his mind was a pink slip buried in his mailbox for days - maybe weeks. The small piece of paper was a receipt for a registered letter from the state. His freedom depended on it. 

Combo, 68, is a convicted violent sex offender. The letter represented his remaining debt to Virginia. Every month, he is required to return it to the Virginia State Police with his fingerprints and signature. 

For the past 14 years, his lawyer estimated, he met that responsibility 166 of 168 times. His failure to be perfect has earned him one thing - prison.