Painful twist in Beebe case
The man whose own apology put him behind bars for a 22-year-old crime has another reason to rue his mea culpa. His mother, said to be his last living relative, died Wednesday, and although his sentence has just three more weeks to run, Charlottesville officials won't let him leave jail to bury her.
William N. Beebe, who sexually assaulted a 17-year-old UVA first year in 1984, then made international headlines by apologizing to his victim more than two decades later, learned this afternoon that Judge Edward Hogshire had denied his request to be allowed to temporarily leave the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, where he has been housed since his March sentencing.
Hogshire first heard the request at an unannounced but public hearing yesterday morning, where Beebe's attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, asked him to grant Beebe a 10-day furlough from jail to allow him to travel to Florida to arrange a funeral and settle his mother's affairs.
Describing a "tearful call" from her client that morning, Quagliana reminded Hogshire that Beebe has been "hyper-compliant" with all previous requirements: he waived extradition from Las Vegas, where he was originally arrested for the offense, reported to his parole officer, and registered as a sex offender in Virginia and Florida. Additionally, Quagliana said, Beebe's Richmond friend who had previously posted his bond was willing to do the same in this circumstance to help ensure Beebe's return.
Quagliana pointed out that Beebe, who was 19 at the time of the assault in UVA's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, has already been convicted and served most of his time. Since he has less than one month remaining in his sentence, she said, he poses less of a flight risk than when the court set bond for him back in March 2006 and allowed him to travel to Florida.
Despite agreeing that Beebe has been compliant, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell objected to a furlough, which he says the Commonwealth never condones. In fact, furloughs– unsupervised departures– no longer exist within the Department of Corrections. Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor says Beebe remains under the authority of the judge of the courts and that any decision regarding an early release would be made by Hogshire.
Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail classification supervisor Martin Kumer agrees that any release for Beebe was Hogshire's call. The jail allows "custodial transport" for inmates to attend funerals within a 35-mile radius, Kumer says, adding that the inmate must pay for both fuel and two officers to accompany him. The jail would not allow employees to accompany an inmate out of state, says Kumer.
At today's hastily scheduled hearing just after 3pm, Quagliana pleaded with Hogshire to use his legal discretion to "alter" or "suspend" Beebe's sentence. If Beebe was released for 10 days, she said, those days would be added on at the end of his sentence.
Worrell, however, cautioned Hogshire against a "slippery slope" and pointed out he could find no examples of similar situations when the court allowed an inmate to leave jail– and then leave the state– without any kind of supervision.
"It's outside what the court has done for any local [inmate]," he said.
Hogshire, while expressing sympathy for the "terrible timing" of Beebe's mother's death, agreed with Worrell. "As compelling as it is," he said of Beebe's grief, "I cannot tamper with the sentence. If I start doing that, I open a door that starts creating havoc."
Beebe's victim, Liz Seccuro, says she is aware of the ruling but declines comment.
Quagliana says a "devastated" Beebe knew there was a chance his mother would not live to see him released from jail, but the timing of her death still came as a surprise he is struggling to deal with. "To his credit," she says, "he never wanted to appear to be using his mother's illness."