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Friday, April 29, 2016

Galen Baughman: National Advocate for Sex Offender Registry Reform is Arrested AGAIN!



I believe in being as truthful and as transparent as possible so many of you may not like this post, but I feel I need to write it so no one claims I ever defended or promoted a Sexual Predator.  

An advocate who has recently become a public-figure for Registry Reform has made the last 8 years of my advocacy in the Commonwealth look foolish and possibly has done extreme damage to the cause I’ve worked so hard for and I’m not going to defend him or ignore his recent actions. That’s what hypocrites do, and I am not a hypocrite.  

I believe in second chances and I believe in forgiveness for past mistakes but I will NOT defend a person who obviously has a serous problem and who needs to face the consequences of their repeated criminal actions.  

I have previously posted a TED X Talk and many articles about Galen Baughman who avoided civil commitment as an SVP in Virginia and became a vocal advocate against SVP civil commitment and public Registries even though he would never attend the Virginia General Assembly sessions and told me I was wasting my time opposing “trash-legislation” in Richmond 

He and I did not agree on many, many points but we both wanted reform of America’s Sex Offender Registries so I posted links that included reference to his advocacy.  
 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

On April 23rd Virginia State Police & US Marshal’s Conducted Operation “Check and Balance” in Tidewater Area for Registered Sex Offenders Who are NOT Wanted, NOT Absconded and NOT Considered Non-Compliant


The Virginia State Police (VSP) who is the official monitor and manager of Virginia Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) who are NOT incarcerated and who are not under VA-DOC supervision are required by Virginia law to show up at every RSO’s residence two times per year. If an RSO changes their address, then the VSP goes out to confirm that change. If an RSO changes their employer information, then the VSP goes out to confirm that change. The total number of in-person checks done every year is noted in the VSP’s annual Sex Offender Monitoring Report http://goo.gl/mG3rzS . 

The VA-DOC is supposedly responsible for the residential and employment checks of RSO's under VA-DOC supervision but the VSP has been known to do residential checks too. 

Any RSO who is Non-Compliant, Wanted or Missing/Absconded deserves US Marshal involvement, but RSO's who are simply under VSP and VA-DOC supervision, do NOT! 

For US Marshal’s to jump in and do spot checks on compliant RSO's is a waste of Federal resources and every time they do these "sweeps" they send out a media report to hype up the fact that RSO's are in our communities and we should fear them all. 

Has anyone seen one of these "sweeps"? Multiple vehicles pull up at an RSO's address/place of work and US Marshal's in flak-jackets with weapons on their hips along with VSP folks swarm. It appears like a crime is in process and it attracts the attention of everyone in the area. Not only is the RSO a spectacle in this but their spouse, parents, room-mates and children are too. These sweeps have occurred during family reunions, picnics, birthday parties and holidays (Halloween). This intimating and unnecessary display of force by Federal and State authorities for Virginians who are NOT wanted or absconded keeps these citizens from ever being able to successfully become contributing members of society because their neighbors, family, co-workers and employers see such an operation and add more distance because they are embarrassed and their fear has been re-elevated, for no justified reason. 
 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On July 1st Virginia Bills HB305/HB1190/SB666 Will Become Law Mandating RSO’s Be Prohibited from Owning Specialty License Plates that Support ALL Children-Related Charities But It Will Also Prohibit Their Spouses, Parents and Children Who Co-Own the Vehicles From Having the Plates Too


During the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session SB666 was expanded with an amendment, HB305 was “left in Committee” because the patron decided to piggy-back as a co-patron on HB 1190 . Then HB 1190 was amended to be identical to SB666, turning them into “Companion Bills”. 

I tracked these Bills through the 2016 GA session for blog readers:
·         December 30, 2015
·         January 22, 2016
·         January 29, 2016
·         February 2, 2016
·         February 8, 2016
·         February 23, 2016
·         February 26, 2016
·         March 1, 2016
·         March 2, 2016 

And after session:
·         March 20, 2016
·         March 24, 2016
·         March 25, 2016
·         April 23,2016 

They both passed through both chambers unanimously, not one Virginia Delegate or Senator voted against them. 

They were both signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and will become law on July 1st 2016. 

What will SB666 and HB 1190 do?
A.    They’d  prohibit the Virginia DMV from issuing to registered sex offenders special license plates relating to children or children's programs or with revenues paid to funds for the benefit of children or renewing the registration for a vehicle that has been issued such license plates.  

Definitely include the following License Plates:
1.       Virginia Family and Children’s Trust Fund Kid’s First
2.      Virginia Family and Children’s Trust Fund Child Trust Heart
3.      Virginia Family and Children’s Trust Fund Child Trust Hand
4.      Virginia Family and Children’s Trust Fund Child Trust Star
5.       Virginia Cure Childhood Cancer
6.      Virginia Unlocking Autism
7.       Virginia Kid’s Eat Free
Ø       A total of 19,869 Total License Plates are in circulation*
Ø       13 are registered to VSP Registered Sex Offenders*
Ø       Of those 13, 7 are co-owned* 
 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Political Scapegoat Needed? Sexual Predators Always Work in a Pinch, No Matter What the Issue Is!


Update: 

Schapiro: Va. Republicans risk overdoing it in rights debate, April 26, 2016

Original Post:

When a Politician needs to fan the flames of hype, myth and fear to get their Constituents attention what is the never-fail, go-to group you can guarantee they’ll serve up? 

Yep! Those Rapists…Pedophiles….Child-Molesters…Child-Rapists…Child-Pornographers… Human-Traffickers….and when applicable Terrorists are always a sure-fire win. 

So what issue has Virginia Legislators drawing from the “Sexual Predator Well” in recent days? 

The fact that last Friday Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order to automatically restore the voting rights to former-felons who are NOT incarcerated AND who are no longer under VA-DOC Probation supervision approximately 180,000 to 220,000 disenfranchised Virginians.  

Before we get to the recent Virginia Political statements made let me cover some facts first: 
  1. These 180,000 to 220,000 disenfranchised Virginians did not just get released from prison yesterday they have been in our communities, working amongst us, living down the street from us, sitting next to us at church, on the city bus and at that outdoor summer concert and they have been shopping alongside us at the local grocery store and Home Depot. Perhaps you even spoke with them briefly or shared a smile.
  2. These 180,000 to 220,000 disenfranchised Virginians were under VA-DOC Probation for years, even decades until they met EVERY mandated requirement and most were relieved of Probation years ago, not yesterday.
  3. If these 180,000 to 220,000 Virginians weren’t contributing and law-abiding members of society today then they would still be under VA-DOC Probation supervision as Virginia does keep many Probationers under supervision for 20 years or even life. 
  4. If these Virginians weren’t contributing and law-abiding members of society today they’d be back in jail or prison and they wouldn’t be included in last Fridays order. 
  5. In Virginia if an Offender owes a Victim restitution (medical bills) that is written into the court-order and is one of the many requirements the Offender must fulfill while under VA-DOC Probation. For an Offender to be released from Probation they must pay all their required restitution and in fact if an Offender falls-behind  in their payments their Probation in VA is extended until they meet that requirement.
  6. Last Friday’s Executive Order is NOT the right to own a firearm, this is the right to vote in an election, a right that most states do in fact automatically reinstate but Virginia doesn’t. With that right being restored so too is the ability to be a notary and to serve on a jury, a task that most Americans avoid like the plague. And a fact that based on the below comments some Virginia Legislators have made, they’ve forgotten isn’t automatic. Potential jurors are required to answer survey questions including prior convictions, they are questioned repeatedly and a Commonwealth’s Attorney (Prosecutor) or Defense Attorney can eliminate any potential juror they don’t approve of or that has a conflict of interest, like a previously convicted rapist hearing a rape case.
  7. The last right that was restored with last Friday Executive Order to “hold an elected office” doesn’t apply to Virginians who have been convicted of rape, child-molestation, child-pornography and human trafficking because Virginia Code for elected-officials already prevents anyone listed on the Virginia State Police Registry from holding office.
But that hasn’t stopped the “Pedophile” and “Rapist” fear-mongering quotes coming from Virginia’s elected officials. 

So far I’ve taken note of these public comments made by Virginia elected-officials attempting to create an urgency of fear, danger and injustice:
 

I’m on Twitter ! #ItsTimetoRestoreIntergritytotheVirigniaSexOffenderRegistry


I have fought the urge to join social media for many years. 

I still refuse to join Facebook due to their blanket-ban of ALL Registered Sex Offenders with NO process to appeal the ban AND because Facebook encourages other members to report any suspected RSO’s pages so they can be shut-down immediately. 

But today I opened a Twitter account so that I can keep up with news outlets, Sex Offender therapists, Registry researchers, Victim’s Advocates and Virginia Legislators. 

I figured the 140-character limit on Twitter would keep me and others in check. 

Don’t look for me on any other social media sites, I won’t be there. Just like I’ve never taken a “Selfie” and I have no plans of taking one in the near future. 

I will not be “Tweeting” every blog post or news article, I will be using it mainly to stay current with those people/groups that I’m following. 

I’ve added the button near the top of the Home page of this blog and if you’re on Twitter come visit me at https://twitter.com/MaryDofVA  if you're not on Twitter, I understand.

#ItsTimetoRestoreIntergritytotheVirigniaSexOffenderRegistry 

Mary Davye Devoy

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jon Brandt: Sex, Politics, Laws, the Courts… and ATSA [The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers]


 
Sex, Politics, Laws, the Courts… and ATSA, April 23, 2016
By Jon Brandt, MSW, LICSW

If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”  

                                                                                                                                   Federal Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey
                                                                                                                                DeBoer v. Snyder, 2014

Sex educator, Dr. Marty Klein recently published a blog titled, “Politics?  I’m Interested in Sex, not Politics.”  His thesis is that sex and politics are inextricably connected, and if you care about rational public policies regarding the management of sexual behaviors, it helps to have a stomach for politics. 

There’s a natural tension between complex social problems, public opinions, and laws – perhaps that’s one definition of “politics.”  In a democracy, laws are frequently driven more by public opinion than sound science or constitutional principles.  Some “sex offender” laws seem to be driven by fear, anger, and misinformation, and resemble moral panic more than informed public policies.  When the lag-time for scientific advances takes too long to engender best practices or influence public policies, or when a compelling public interest can no longer justify laws that breach the boundaries of constitutional safeguards, often the courts step in.  Beyond the illustrations that Dr. Klein offers in his blog, there are many examples of laws that are (or were) unwarranted, overreaching, or unreasonably intrusive, and the courts intervened.  Consider these “sexual offenses” of yesteryear.

 

Please Help with Legal Fees Towards Possible Injunction and Court Challenge Against Virginia SB666/HB1190 from Becoming Law on July 1st 2016


Update:




Original Post:

It has been one month since I last posted about contributions to a possible legal challenge against a Virginia law that takes effect on July 1st. 

Since that post my husband and I drove to Northern Virginia to meet with a very good attorney and while we left the meeting a bit stunned and disappointed all hope was not dashed. 

Since that meeting we have paid the law firm to research our legal options, we’ve also had a conference call that went rather well and more research is being done as we speak. 

I hope to have answer on if a court challenge beginning with an injunction will or will not happen a month before the July 1st start date. 

None of this pre-work is free, nor is it cheap. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Virginia Governor McAuliffe Signs Order for One-Time Mass & Automatic Restoration of Rights: Effective Today "Any felon who has completed any term of incarceration and completed any period of supervised release, probation or parole, for any and all felony convictions" Can VOTE!


Attention Readers! The below news is HUGE. 

As of noon today, ANY Virginia RSO convicted of a felony who lost their voting rights who is NOT under VA-DOC Probation can NOW vote in the next election, become a notary OR sit on a jury. The “hold an elected office” portion of today’s Governors Order doesn’t apply to most RSO’s. 

If you want your firearms rights restored you’ll still have to apply and wait to be approved or denied for that. 

If you are not a registered voter you need to take this opportunity and register. 

Now when you contact your Virginia Delegate, Senator and Governor you can proudly say you aren’t just a constituent but you are a voter! 

Don’t waste this opportunity…….. Embrace it and utilize it. 

You are no longer disenfranchised, Congratulations! 

Mary Devoy
 

 

McAuliffe to sign order restoring rights to 206,000 felons, April 22, 2016
By Jim Nolan

Gov. Terry McAuliffe this morning will sign an order that effectively restores the civil rights, including the right to vote, of more than 200,000 felons in Virginia. 

The unprecedented move, expected to be announced at an 11 a.m. news conference on Capitol Square, marks a dramatic expansion of policy in restoring the right to vote, to sit on a jury, to serve in elected office or become a notary.

Today's order applies to nonviolent and violent felons - a significant departure from a policy embraced in recent years by Democrat and Republican governors to remove the societal obstacles felons face upon completing their sentences.
 

Action Item: Virginia Attorney General Received an AG Opinion Submission 8 Months Ago to Determine if Virginia’s 22,000+ RSO’s Can Legally Attend Church or Not……….


Recently in Virginia News……….. Delegate Dave LaRock has made it known that he’s upset Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has failed to answer an Attorney General Opinion that the Delegate submitted 7 months ago looking for a definition of “sex” in reference to sexual orientation and sexual identity. 

Delegate LaRock is so upset that his request has been ignored that he is now suing the Virginia Attorney General demanding “he do his job”.
Lawmaker files suit against Herring to compel opinion on transgender discrimination

Well Delegate LaRock’s submission isn’t the ONLY one that’s been ignored by the Virginia AG’s Office, so has one submitted for me and it’s been 8 months as of Monday.
 

Documentary ‘Untouchable’ Wins 2016 Tribeca Film Award and it Finds a Balance Telling the Stories of Sexual Abuse Victims and Advocates and Those Who are Mandated to Bear the Public Stigma of Sex Offender and Abide By the Ever Expanding and Punitive Laws

Lobbyist Ron Book and his daughter/advocate Lauren Book

I first posted about the premiere of the documentary Untouchable back on March 5th. 

Below is a review on the documentary, then at the very bottom is a 6 minute interview with Untouchable Director David Feige, a three other reviews AND a link to 2016 Tribeca Festival award winners which includes Untouchable. 

Mary Devoy 

 

Untouchable’ Questions the Unspeakable Truth, April 22, 2016
By Sidney Butler

“Untouchable” is the kind of movie that stays with you long after the credits roll and the lights come on in the theater. It’s a documentary that makes each audience member reevaluate his or her moral compass and, like a stereotypical hero on a quest, makes one question the definitions of good and evil. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Untouchable” chronicles the enforcement of strict sex offender laws and the men and women behind and against them. Through a diversified lens, director David Feige constructs a balanced story of a controversial topic.  

The film documents top Florida lobbyist Ron Book who, after uncovering that his long time nanny sexually abused his daughter Lauren, used his political prowess to pass some of the harshest sexual offender laws in the country. The impact of these laws is far more widespread than one would think, causing thousands of criminals to forcibly abide by them.  

“Untouchable” is a truly remarkable example of three-dimensional storytelling, explaining the backstory of each subject and how Book’s laws affected their lives. Shawna Baldwin is a mother of two and has been a sexual offender for over 15 years.

 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Autistic Young Adults Being Labeled Violent Sex Offenders for Life in Virginia


The below comes from The Arc, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities website. 

I have previously posted (http://goo.gl/D7VZLo , http://goo.gl/XvhRKE , http://goo.gl/Al9r0y , http://goo.gl/eoquyw) about young Autistic people being labeled Violent Sex Offenders for life. 

The below Arc post is about a young Autistic Virginian who was swept up in the Commonwealth’s Sexual Predator hysteria in which sentences are applied as one-size-fits-all no matter what the specifics of the individual case might be.  

Mary Devoy 

 

Mislabeled a Sex Offender: The Kelmar Family’s Fight for Justice, April 6, 2016

My name is Brian Kelmar, and I am the father of a 24 year old son who has autism and auditory and sensory processing disabilities. Our nightmare began almost six years ago, right after my son graduated high school. It’s a case of the “perfect storm” that resulted in my son being punished and treated as an outcast in our community and in society. 

Do words like “trusting, bullied, eager to please, and not understanding social situations” sound familiar? These words describe my son and how he interacts and/or experiences the world around him.  Like others with autism, he had few friends growing up, let alone a girlfriend.  That core need for friendship hasn’t changed. He continues to long to fit in and feel included, and have friends in his life that he can talk to. So, when a female friend of my younger son started texting my son, he was so happy that he found someone nice to talk to. 

The girl’s texts started innocently enough with just small talk.  The communication began when he was away at a college summer orientation where he was learning about the autism program he was to begin in the fall. The texting from her soon became very sexually aggressive, and he did not understand what the texts were about. He answered her questions with short words or answers, such as “like”, “what”, “ok”, and “huh”? She pointed out to him, “you really don’t understand what I am talking about” in regards to her sexual statements like “friends with benefits” and “hooking up,” along with more graphic content which he did not understand. When reading the back and forth texting, it’s clear to anyone reading these messages that they were going right over my son’s head.
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nicole Pittman: The Stain on Young Lives That Never Goes Away


The Stain on Young Lives That Never Goes Away, April 14, 2016
By Nicole Pittman

Brandon was 11 years old when Texas authorities charged him for indecent exposure. According to one account, he pulled his pants down; according to another, he urinated in public. 

Yet the state, in finding Brandon guilty, proclaimed the preteen a “sex offender.”  As it has for hundreds of thousands of others, that label sealed his fate.  After spending most of his teenage years in a juvenile facility, Brandon—whose full name has been omitted to protect his privacy—would still have to register as a sex offender when he came home.

Except he couldn’t actually go home. 

That’s because his parents’ house was located in a “child safety zone,” which can cover hundreds of yards around any place that kids congregate, from schools to parks to movie theaters. 

He, like 44 percent of all registered youth who are listed as “sex offenders,”  soon became homeless. And because he was homeless, he couldn’t provide authorities with a permanent address, which is a registration requirement; so he soon ended up behind bars again. 

Similar anecdotes of young lives ruined by this country’s sex crime registration laws—which are unparalleled in most of the world—abound. 

Roughly 200,000 of the 835,000 individuals currently on registries were minors when they were placed on the list.   This legal practice routinely brands kids— some as young as eight years old—as sex offenders. They are there for a spectrum of offenses that can include serious crime, but also for actions like playing “doctor,” streaking and consensual underage sex. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Congressman Jerrold Nadler of NY Introduces HR4914 The Keep Kids Safe Act it Would Stop Registered Sex Offenders Convicted of a Misdemeanor Against a Child From Owning/Possessing a Firearm or Ammunition

Doesn't Matter Anymore. If it's a Sex Offense
in the U.S. You Have No Rights and There are No Second Chances!

It’s HR4914.

Congressman Nadler Introduces the Keep Kids Safe Act to Stop Sex Offenders Who Target Children from Owning or Acquiring a Gun, April 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to prevent guns from getting into the hands of sex offenders who prey on children.  Federal law prohibits persons convicted of a felony from buying, selling, or possessing guns or ammunition, yet it is perfectly legal for someone convicted a misdemeanor sex crime against a minor to acquire a firearm.  The Keep Kids Safe Act of 2016 would close this safety gap, making it illegal under federal law for someone convicted of a misdemeanor sex crime against a child to transfer, acquire or possess firearms or ammunition. 

“Guns in the possession of those who are unstable or unfit to use them can have devastating consequences, which is why it is so important for us to be proactive in ensuring that people who may do others harm do not have access to firearms,” said Congressman Nadler.  “Keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of sex crimes against a child should be the easiest place to start. The Keep Kids Safe Act ensures that predators who have been convicted of offenses against children are not able to buy firearms. Allowing sex offenders who already have shown a propensity to target children access to guns is too great a risk. It is irresponsible to simply wait until the next tragedy happens before we act.”  

The Keep Kids Safe Act covers misdemeanor sex offenders against children and is modeled after the firearms ban that applies to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes.  In addition to making it illegal under federal law for someone convicted of a misdemeanor sex crime against a minor to transfer, receive, or possess firearms or ammunition, it would also be a crime for anyone to provide such an offender with firearms or ammunition. The legislation is supported by Everytown for Gun Safety, the Violence Policy Center, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March. 

Action Item: Ask Virginia Representatives in Washington D.C. to Sponsor a Bill to Add RSO’s to Protected Group Under Federal Hate Crimes


Many people think Hate Crimes shouldn’t exist at all. That a crime by anyone against anyone should be equally prosecuted and punished; well that’s a debate for another day.

Hate Crimes first at a Federal level and then the States followed, do exist and it’s time for Congress to consider adding a new group to the Federal list. 

The definition of a Hate Crime:
Hate crime (also known as bias-motivated crime) is a usually violent, prejudice motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. Examples of such groups include but are not limited to: ethnicity, gender identity, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, or sexual orientation.[ 

In Virginia it’s any criminal act committed against a person or his property with the specific intent of instilling fear or intimidation in the individual against whom the act is perpetrated because of race, religion or ethnic origin. 

So what “group” of citizens do I think needs to be included under Hate Crimes?  

Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) are a “certain social group” and any violence against them should be punished as such. 

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) added "Sex Offenders" to their list of people to target in 2009, possibly earlier.  In a Google search you can easily find videos and news articles about it. The KKK is motivated by theological and political ideologies, but mostly it’s an “Us” versus “Them” movement. 

The KKK is the oldest and most notorious Hate Group in America with a history of fear, violence and vigilantism. They are anti-African-American (Pro-Caucasian/White Supremacy), anti-Jew (Pro-Christian), anti-LGBT, anti-Immigrant, anti-Communist AND anti-Sex Offenders. These are all “undesirables to target” according to the KKK.

Because of this the U.S. Government should include those listed on the 50 State Sex Offender Registries who are copied onto the National Sex Offender Registry under the Federal Hate Crimes statute.

The U.S. Government has allowed each state to post a variety of personal information of their RSO’s online including home addresses, name of employer, address of employer, phone numbers, license plate numbers and maps right to their front doors. It’s practically a Government sponsored invitation for a vigilante to strike a vulnerable stranger because they are part of an undesirable group. 

While most Americans would agree any Hate Group is despicable and if they commit a crime against others based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, they should face Federal charges. Most Americans couldn’t care less about Registered Sex Offenders (or their family members) being harassed, intimidated, threatened, vandalized, beaten or even killed, after all they are a Registered Sex Offender. 

But that’s the point here.  

Selecting and then targeting someone from a “list” because the U.S .Government has claimed the public has a right to know who these “Predators” and “Pedophiles” are and where they live actually creates paranoia and fear within the population that wouldn’t exist if there weren’t Registries. By posting RSO’s information online and mapping right to their front door the U.S. Government has made every RSO vulnerable to harassment, intimidation or worse.
 

SVP Civil Commitment: Why Sex Criminals Get Locked Up Forever By Aviva Stahl

Illustration by Matt Rota
Why Sex Criminals Get Locked Up Forever, April 13, 2016
By Aviva Stahl

Gilbert Greenfield sits upright in the chair, his body tense, a blood-pressure cuff attached to his left arm. A sensor is strapped around his chest, and two more cap his fingertips to measure how much he's sweating. 

The polygrapher asks a question: "During the past year, have you fantasized about inflicting pain while having forced sexual intercourse with a female?"  

"No," Greenfield responds. 

The polygrapher prompts Greenfield again: "During the past year, have you masturbated to sexual fantasies about forcing a female to have sexual intercourse with you?" 

"No," he replies. 

When the test is over, Greenfield can breathe a sigh of relief—he passed. A court has ruled he's a sexually violent predator, and to go through the rehabilitative program, his treatment team must believe he is being open and honest about his deviant fantasies.
 

In Virginia Innocence Doesn’t Matter When it’s a Sex Crime and Legislators Try to Downplay Wrongful Convictions and False Accusations........Isn’t it Time for that to Change?


On Monday April 11th 2016 I was invited for the second time to speak at the Alliance for Progressive Values (APV) monthly Salon. Thank you so much APV leaders and members, I enjoyed the discussion and I hope you will now question harsher and broader laws against RSO's when our elected-officials tell you they are “common-sense” , “this will keep your children safe” , “if this law existed previously then so-and-so might would have been prevented” and “ this will close a known loophole”. These and similar key-phrases should make your radar go up anytime a Legislator says them and closer examination of their proposal should occur immediately. 

While preparing my APV handouts for Monday’s event in which I included last months great New Yorker article, National Recidivism Rates, Virginia Registry growth and costs, Books and Studies and much more……….the recent Keith Allen Harward exoneration was in the back of my mind as well as 4 other highly publicized and editorialized cases of innocent Virginians who were wrongly convicted and then trapped by Virginia’s laws as RSO’s with few options to ever receive justice. 

Innocent Virginians who are on the VSP Registry MUST have DNA to obtain a Full-pardon or a Writ of Actual Innocence (the only ways to be removed from the VSP Registry) after a wrongful conviction otherwise they will remain an RSO for life……. struggling to maintain housing, employment and their family. 

So I decided to create a list of the innocent Virginia RSO’s (see below) who have made the news in the last 12-14 years to show APV members how easily a false accusation, a misidentification, improper forensic science, prosecutorial misconduct and false confessions can lead to a wrongful conviction in Virginia and a lifetime on the VSP Registry. 

These men are a drop-in-the-bucket when it comes to the total number of innocent Virginians who are publicly labeled Sex Offender because each and every year the Virginia Legislature continues to expand current sex crimes, create new sex crimes, lower the burden of proof, deny due process to college men, raise the penalty (with mandatory minimums or life w/out parole), allowing prior sex convictions to be admissible in court for new sex charges and eliminating the statute of limitations so defendants face accusations with no evidence or witnesses available to wage a defense decades later. Don’t forget in Virginia there is NO Discovery for the defense (it’s known as Trial by Ambush) and in Virginia we have the 21-Day Rule so on the 22nd day a recant by the victim or by a witness is completely ignored by the Commonwealth even though the Commonwealth’s Attorney case to convict the defendant was based on that very same victim or witnesses earlier claims. 

If you haven’t heard of the men below, Google them.  

Read about their convictions, read the editorials about the Virginia laws that allowed them to be convicted or that prevented them from being exonerated in a timely manner or at all. Read about how long they remained in prison, how long they were required to register as public Sex Offenders and even when evidence was discovered years later, did it lead to a full-pardon or exoneration OR are they still a Registered Sex Offender even though everyone knows they are innocent? 

Two other false accusations for sex crimes in Virginia that made the news but thankfully never made it to a conviction or to sentencing are Mark Weiner and Sean Lanigan! 

Defenders of the archaic Virginia 21 Day Rule perpetuate the myth that our criminal justice system almost never convicts an innocent person, that they are the exception AND that frivolous claims of innocence or recantations would cripple the Virginia court system. This has not been the case in other states with broader opportunities.  

The Virginia Legislature has created a current system where it is all too easy for a vindictive, selfish, confused or scared person to brand innocent citizens a “Sex Offender” for life with no evidence. 

Virginia Legislators and Victim-Advocates love to say that false allegations are a very small percentage of sex crimes in an attempt to convince the public that these people aren’t worth any consideration or concern.  

Well, we know better……. don’t we? 

It’s not that the list of false accusations is low it’s that the ability to challenge the cases after the fact is impossible so very few make it into the news and worse even less into Virginia courts.  
 
Mary Devoy

 

Keith Allen Harward      
 
  • Reason for wrongful conviction: Improper Forensic Science and Government Misconduct for Rape and murder in 1982.
  • In 2014 the Innocence Project got involved in his case
  • After serving 33 years in prison his DNA was tested pointing to a shipmate as the perpetrator, the VA Supreme Court agreed and he was released on April 8, 2016, fully-exonerated and he removed from the VSP Registry. 
Michael Kenneth McAlister   
 
  • Reason for wrongful conviction: Eye Witness Misidentification for Rape in 1986.
  • He served 29 years in prison and in February 2015 he was about to be civilly committed by the VA AG’s Office as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). Virginia law bars someone facing commitment from challenging the validity of prior criminal convictions during the commitment process. Then his story made the news (RTD’s Frank Green) and the public and Administration took notice.
  • In May 2015 Gov McAuliffe granted him an absolute-pardon and he was removed from the VSP Registry.
Edgar Coker Jr.     
 
  • Reason for wrongful conviction: False Accusation of Rape in 2007.
  • At the age of 15 (juvenile) he took a guilty plea for rape of a 14 year old, 2 months later the female accuser admitted she lied and he remained in prison.
  • When he completed his sentence in 2008 he became a public Sex Offender.
  • For 6 years the UVA Innocence Project tried to get his name cleared but because of the 21-Day Rule the truth did not matters (as a Wash Post article phrased it Innocence is no Defense in VA) and they instead had to prove he received ineffective counsel.
  • In February 2014 he was fully-exonerated and he was removed from the VSP Registry. 
Jonathan C. Montgomery
 
  • Reason for wrongful conviction: False Accusation of Sexual Assault
  • In 2007 when he was 22 years old he was accused of a sexual assault 8 years earlier (at 14 years old, a juvenile) upon a then 10 year old female. There was no evidence against him just her word and noted in the court transcripts the judge said there’d be no reason for her to lie and he sentenced Jonathan to 7.5 years in prison.
  • Elizabeth Paige Coast recanted when he was in the 4th year of the prison sentence.
  • Virginia AG Cuccinelli and Gov McDonnell couldn’t seem to figure out how to release Mr. Montgomery and the issue was covered by the news. McDonnell granted a conditional pardon in November 2012, Mr. Montgomery had to register as a public Sex Offender.
  • In December 2013 the courts granted him a Writ of Actual Innocence and he was removed from the VSP Registry.
  • This is the ONLY recant in VA that has ever resulted in a Writ of Actual Innocence for the RSO because of VA’s 21-Day Rule, because he was still incarcerated when she recanted. If Mr. Montgomery had already been released he’d be living as a public Sex Offender today for the rest of his life.
  • Ms. Coast served 2 months (weekends) for committing perjury for the false claim of sexual assault.
Thomas Haynesworth