Greenleaf attacker: Judge-freed Haskins now charged in child rape
Seven years ago, after Robert Terrell Haskins was charged with his first sexual assault, police felt so sure that he was a man unable to control himself that they expressed outrage when a little-known judge reduced an attempted rape charge to a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction, and they predicted that Haskins would molest again. Sadly, that prediction proved accurate for the then-eight-year-old child Haskins allegedly assaulted between 2003 and 2005.
The alleged victim, now 16, contacted police this spring, and Haskins, now 26, stands charged with five counts of forcible sodomy and one count of aggravated sexual assault.
"My reaction?" responds Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding, who was a Charlottesville police captain when Haskins was first charged. "I'm really not surprised. Those of us around back then felt like he had a compulsive nature that made him a sexual predator. I'm still perplexed the judge made the decision he did."
Haskins' infamy began with an attack in Greenleaf Park on December 30, 2002. The brazen daylight attack on a mother in the presence of her toddler came at a time when Charlottesville women were already on edge with a serial rapist on the loose. Arrested the following March, Haskins admitted on videotape that he'd knocked the 34-year-old woman to the ground to have sexual relations with her and fled when she screamed and fought him off.
Nonetheless, when tried in September 2003, Haskins was found guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery and given just a six-month sentence. With credit for time served, he was released that same month.
"Those in court were flabbergasted with the judge's decision," says Harding.
As for the judge, Joseph Spinella, he's now 85 and retired in Richmond. Although he says he doesn't remember the case ("It doesn't ring a bell," he says), he cites pre-sentencing reports that give the defendant's background and sentencing guidelines that would have played into his decision.
"You get a pretty good picture of what he's like, but you can't predict if he's going to do well," says Spinella. "We truly dislike hearing someone has not followed the rules and stayed out of trouble."
Despite the subsequent alleged assaults on a child, says Spinella, "I don't think I would have done anything differently."
"For that judge not to remember, we have some cracks in our legal system," says Sheriff Harding. "He wasn't part of our community and doesn't have to answer for his decision."
Between 2003-2005, when the latest victim was between 8 and 10 years old, Haskins would rack up increasingly more serious sexual assault charges. In February 2003, prior to his conviction, Haskins grabbed the buttocks of a a juvenile female jogger on Locust Avenue and received a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction. Later that year, he allegedly chased another jogger on Locust Avenue.
Two years later, he broke into a woman's house on Little High Street, a crime for which he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. And at the time of the most recent charges, Haskins was already in jail for probation violation and for providing false information to the state's sexual offender registry, says a Charlottesville Police lieutenant.
"We warned there was a high likelihood of him re-offending," says Sheriff Harding, who wonders how–- or even whether–- judges are monitored and assessed.
"I can't say this guy is incompetent," says Harding, speaking of the judge, "but his ruling seemed to be incompetent. I'm glad to hear he's retired."
Harding says that efforts to rehabilitate people with certain types of sexual deviancy often fail. "If he's found guilty," says Harding, of the latest charges, "I hope the judge will incapacitate him."
Haskins attended a school for learning and emotional disabilities and once told police that if he doesn't take his medication, "I do wild stuff."
"If he has a mental illness, I'd like to see him treated," says Harding, "but he's a danger to the community."
Updated 7:10pm with Judge Joseph Spinella's full name.