Horn freed: Ex-County officer pleads guilty to assault

A former County police officer accused of rape has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery of an adult family member.

Sean M. Horn, 42, who was most recently a reserve deputy with the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office, was arrested January 5 and charged with an alleged November 2011 rape of an adult family member.

Horn accepted a plea agreement Monday, April 9 in Albemarle County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, pleading guilty to the assault and battery charge. According to Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford, Horn received a 12-month sentence, all suspended, along with one-year of supervision, during which  Horn is to address issues related to the charge.  

"The Commonwealth stands by the allegations contained in the original charge," Lunsford says in an email. "In cases of sexual assault up to and including rape, however, the Commonwealth is guided in large part by the desires of the victim."

According to Lunsford, the adult victim was "fully prepared" to move forward with the original charge, but decided to resolve the matter without going to trial.

"Her motivations for doing so were many, entirely appropriate, and fully supported by the Commonwealth," says Lunsford.

Hook legal analyst David Heilberg suspects there may have been some credibility issues with the victim, but rather than moving forward with the considerable costs of a trial, and spending even more time in jail, Horn decided to cut his losses and accept the lesser charge.

"Only a Rockefeller can litigate on principle," says Heilberg, "and only a Mandela is willing to stay in jail to prove a point."

Still, Lunsford says the victim and the community will be protected with Horn's one-year supervision requirement, and by the fact that the conviction will prevent him from possessing a firearm, and, therefore, obtaining future employment as a law enforcement officer.

Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding, who earlier asked the public to reserve judgement on Horn until he had his day in court, confirms that the assault conviction would prevent him from reinstating Horn.


"...by the fact that the conviction will prevent him from possessing a firearm, and, therefore, obtaining future employment as a law enforcement officer."
A misdemeanor assault conviction has no impact on one's rights under the second amendment. It may make it more difficult to obtain a concealed-carry permit or to gain employment in the field of law enforcement, but it doesn't "prevent" anything of the sort.

FYI, Restrictions on the Possession of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence

I'm thinking is has less to do with the firearm issue and employment than being on the sex-offender-registry; the sex offense is a life sentence. I'd say he had plenty of reason to take a deal like this and it had nothing to do with the costs of extended litigation. A misdemeanor A&B - heck, even the arrest record - probably already makes him un-hireable for a LEO job.

OK, can't The Hook find another lawyer to comment on matters of which they have no direct knowledge. Expert Heilberg seems to be able to read the minds of victims. Is this unfair to victims, you bet it is. Speculation is just a form of gossip. Gossip is insensitive and harmful to the whole cloth of a fair and just society.

I hope you don't pay Attorney Heilberg, if not, I guess you are getting what you pay for. Pay nothing, get nothing. Find another expert, my frown lines are growing with each time he is quoted.

I don't see a thing Heilberg said that isn't pretty darn close to being accurate. He can't be 100% right all the time, but his average is extremely high. Get over it.

Either there were problems with the case, as Dave suggested, or there's quite a sweet deal here -- because under any other situation, he would at least have a conviction for sexual battery -- which would also strap him with all kinds of other consequences, as a sexual predator, etc. (not that I support the widespread branding of folks with this label). So, if this was the result of concerns about the validity of the charge (not springing from the fact that he was an officer), then well done, prosecutors. Otherwise, raw double standard.