Kitze acquitted: Judge vents, but rules for rapist
The man known as the "graduation rapist" was found not guilty of probation violation November 13 by a judge who said he fully expects Jeffrey Kitze to be back in court again because of the way he interacts with women.
Kitze, 51, was convicted of the brutal rape and beating of his sister's roommate the day after both women graduated from UVA Law School back in 1989. He served 20 years in prison, and shortly after his release and return to Charlottesville in January 2009, complaints arose from allegedly frightened young women at Virginia Organizing, a grassroots group where Kitze volunteered.
Two Octobers ago, he was convicted of one probation violation because his probation officer had ordered him to have no contact with Virginia Organizing staff, interns, or volunteers.
After that conviction, another woman, an activist from an Organizing project subsidiary organization called Food Not Bombs, came forward and accused Kitze of stalking her. While initially convicted of stalking in January 2011, Kitze appealed, and on August 7 in Charlottesville Circuit Court, a jury found him not guilty.
The probation violation charges heard Wednesday were based on Kitze's now-overturned stalking conviction and whether he violated his probation officer's instructions to stay away from Virginia Organizing volunteers.
Judge Jay Swett ruled that Kitze did not violate those instructions when he made contact with the Foods Not Bombs volunteer– even though Foods Not Bombs is an organization under the Virginia Organizing umbrella.
"The defendant has to have a clear understanding of what he did or didn't do," said Judge Swett.
While the ruling was a victory for Kitze, the bench offered a dim view of his behavior.
"The court can't condone the way he acts," said Swett. "In the letters he wrote, he denies the rape. He is a man who does not accept responsibility. He will be back in court again."
Swett said it was up to the probation officer to be more specific in the terms of Kitze's probation and then added: "Clearly, his approach to women is a problem for this defendant."
After the four-hour hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford expressed shock.
"I was surprised and disappointed because we feel this is a public safety issue," said Lunsford. "I was especially surprised in light of [Swett's] comment and obvious concern about Mr. Kitze's behavior."
Lunsford noted that Kitze is supposed to follow a set of "good behavior" terms imposed with the suspended portion of his original rape sentence.
"At the very least," she said, "this is a violation of good behavior."
Kitze is currently incarcerated at Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail for the prior parole violation, with a release date of November 21, 2019, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections website.
Bill Muse, chairman of the Virginia Parole Board, explains the difference between probation and parole.
"Probation is the court's decision," says Muse. "The parole board puts someone out of prison on a separate track."
Kitze's annual Parole Board review will be held during the second quarter of 2013.
"We make an independent decision of our own whether he violated parole," says Muse. "It may be a different decision from the court."
Adds Muse, "Our primary focus is public safety."