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Sunday, April 30, 2017

10 Years, 9 Virginia General Assemblies and at Least 5 More to Go


This coming Thursday is the 10th anniversary of where my life and my husband’s life took a drastic and unbelievable turn that would change us both forever.

And this coming October will be the 10th anniversary of a plea deal that he made with the Commonwealth that should allow for a court petition so that we could move on with our lives but that plea deal would be broken by the entire Virginia Legislature just 5 months later and then by Governor Tim Kaine with the retroactive application of 2008’s SB590. If a start date of July 1, 2008 had just been added to the Bill then the 2007 plea deal would still matter but because no start date was added the change in Virginia law was applied retroactively to everyone who qualifies, which is sadly only approximately 17% of the entire VSP Registry. The rest, 83% are “Lifers” with no opportunity to ever petition for removal. 

This means we are only 2/3’s the way through instead of nearing the expected finish line.  

So I’ve decided to share how the Virginia justice system not only failed us back in 2007 but is intentionally set-up to fail all innocent people. 

On May 4 2007, my husband and I were asked to assist the neighbor (a widow of 3 years) across the street in putting down their 14-year-old frail and deaf dog because the widow was not strong enough to do so, on her own. As we owned several dogs and cannot bear to see an animal suffer, we agreed to help her with this necessary task as a dog owner. 

The teenaged daughter (one month from turning 16 years old) of the dog's owner witnessed this discussion on her front porch and protested the planned euthanasia vehemently. 

One week later on May 11th, the day before the expected trip to the veterinarian, a Hanover County Sheriff’s Deputy and a County Investigator stood on my front porch. The Investigator who whisked my husband of 15 years (at that time) into his vehicle told him that the girl had accused him of touching her the week before inappropriately; he was questioned for more than 30 minutes. 

My husband was never alone with the girl, I was there the day the abuse supposedly occurred and so was the girl’s mother. No abuse occurred, no crime was committed. 

My husband and I could not believe this claim had been made and we were certain that nothing could or would come of it. That’ evidence would be needed to corroborate her tall tale, that everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, we were very, very wrong.
 


Virginia is known as a “trial by ambush state” no one would tell us what the teenage girl was claiming. We begged the Investigator to come interview us, they NEVER did. We asked the Commonwealths Attorney office what was being claimed, no one would tell us anything. Back in 2007 Hanover County did not share any discovery with defendant’s all files were closed. 

Right before the July 4th holiday weekend my husband was charged with aggravated sexual battery and object sexual penetration. Two felonies, he was looking at life + 20 years in a state with no parole. 

I turned him in at 6AM to the Hanover’s Sheriff’s office to avoid Deputies coming to out home or worse, his place of employment to arrest him. 

I quickly learned how bail/bond works and was able to get him out by 2pm with $1,000 for the $10,000 bail that had been set before the holiday weekend began otherwise he would have been stuck for more than 3 days. 

Four different Richmond attorneys that he met with told him the State needed no corroboration for the charge; in Virginia the accusation alone was sufficient, and prison time, at least in our county of Hanover, was guaranteed.  

We could spend $50,000 or $150,000 for an attorney and the results were going to be the same, incarceration in a State with no parole. 

We then hired a Private Investigator, who uncovered many pieces of evidence that proved the teen accuser wasn’t happy with how her mother asked me and my husband for advice and that showed the family’s character and history were extremely questionable but all of it was inadmissible in Virginia courts. 

We also learned that anything I said in my husband’s defense would be discounted by the prosecution, the judge and a jury because I was his wife. I was told no one would believe anything I said my word meant nothing but the accuser’s was everything. 

It also didn’t matter that the girl’s original claim of abuse in May 2007 morphed into ongoing abuse of 2 years, a typical trait in false claims. The girl wasn’t required to prove anything, no dates, times, facts anything. Neither was the Prosecution, it was a he-said-she-said case and we were told a Grand Jury would certify it and a jury would most likely side with a young girl who claimed she was sexually molested by an older man, that the odds would be at least one victim of sexual assault would be on the jury and they’d want vengeance.  

Our 2nd attorney filed for discovery and all we received in September was my husband’s statement to the Hanover County investigator in our driveway from the May evening when we first learned there was an accusation. 

At the first preliminary hearing in September of 2007 - four months after the accusation - neither the accuser nor her mother showed up. The Assistant Commonwealth Attorney claimed the girl hadn't even been interviewed by their office yet, my husband and I both wasted a day off from work and we were left without any answers. The Commonwealth Attorney in Hanover at the time was Kirby Porter, he was known for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on cases that should never have been brought to trial but his pride and conviction rate were too important for him to back down. 

               On a side note:
Mr. Porter was not reelected for a third term as Commonwealth Attorney in November 2007. 
In July 2010 Mr. Porter committed suicide by jumping into the Grand Canyon because his wife (in divorce documents) accused him of being both physically and verbally abusive to her and their children and Mr. Porter knew what an accusation would do to his reputation, true or not. 

At the second preliminary hearing six weeks later, as soon as we arrived our 3rd lawyer advised us to take the plea deal that Hanover County was offering, even though we'd told him previously that my husband would not plead guilty under any circumstances. The deal was my husband must plead guilty to one misdemeanor of sexual battery, he’d be on probation for two years and he’d become a registered sex offender for a minimum of 10 years. 

He refused; he would not plead guilty to something that never occurred. 

Then the lawyer returned with a revised offer, the County would accept a No-Contest plea (Alford plea), one charge of misdemeanor sexual battery, no jail, no fines, just registration as a Sex Offender for 10 years otherwise the case was going to a Grand Jury. Oh, and if my husband didn’t take the deal we were advised that the Asst. C.A. would be releasing my husbands photo, name, our home address and the felony charges to the local news stations for that evenings broadcast.  

We were given five minutes to decide and then the offer expired. 

              2nd side note:
4 weeks prior my 78 year old father had died, his heart gave out because of the stress of this false accusation, I was a mess I was still grieving for that loss and now my husbands attorney was taking him into a separate hall to discuss the offer and his odds because he was the client, not me. 

It was a game of chicken and my husband gave in as the County expected. 

My husband pled No -Contest (an Alford plea) in late-October 2007. At that time we were told he could petition the court at the 10-year mark to be removed from the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry and that’s what we planned to do. 

A few months later I lost my 2.5 year job as a contract Real Estate AUTOCAD Space Planner. All because my husband became a public Registered Sex Offender and my female manager made it her mission to get rid of me including successfully demanding to our company that I must see a psychiatrist every 2 weeks under the company’s health plan who would report back to my company if I was “happy enough” to continue working for them, I had no choice but to quit.  

In January 2008 the Virginia General Assembly Legislature passed numerous laws that no one told us about including SB590 that retroactively increased my husband’s minimum time as a Non-Violent Sex Offender on the VSP Registry from 10 years (October 2017) to 15 years (October 2022) before a court petition for removal would be allowed. 

The Virginia State Police actually spent the time and money to find those few Non-Violent RSO’s who had successfully petitioned the courts prior to 2008 and forced them back onto the VSP Registry for another 5 years without any due process and requiring them to pay for and go through the entire petition process after July 2013. 

That’s when we realized he’d never get off the VSP Registry because the Virginia Legislature will continue to expand the restrictions, regulations and mandates every year for the rest of his life because no one ever questions the basis of the proposals or their collateral consequences.  

That is why I became an advocate for data-driven reform of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry and all the laws that make RSO’s, that manage or monitor RSO’s or could be expanded to RSO’s down the line. 

It’s almost 10 years since my husband became a Non-Violent Sex Offender and we still live in the same house, still across the street from the almost 26 year old female who has never moved out. She lied to save her dog from being euthanized and it worked the dog remained in their backyard for almost 3 more winters; she achieved her short-sighted goal while destroying both of our lives. But she was able to destroy our lives because of the laws that the Virginia Legislature passed that were based on emotion, fear, myth and hate instead of on facts and evidence.  

I could easily be emotional and I could surely be filled with hate or even revenge but instead I chose to be the face, the name and the voice for data-driven reform of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.  

And because of retroactively applied Virginia laws against those listed on the VSP Registry, I have at least another 5 more years and General Assemblies to continue the fight.  

Mary Devoy