Closed hearing in ‘12-step’ rape case
The November 27 trial for William Nottingham Beebe is looming, and today Beebe, charged with raping a 17-year-old UVA first year in a fraternity house in 1984, was present for a closed hearing before Judge Edward Hogshire in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
Although the case has received national and international media coverage, with Beebe's accuser, Liz Seccuro, appearing on television (including an hour-long NBC Dateline episode, and appearances on CNN and BBC to tell her side of the story), Judge Hogshire, citing Virginia's "Rape Shield law," cleared the small courtroom conference room in which the hearing was held of anyone not directly related to the proceedings.
The law is part of the Virginia State Code 18.2-67-7 and was enacted in 1981, according to Robie Ingram in Legislative Services, the bill-drafting branch of the Virginia State legislature in Richmond. Such hearings, says Ingram, occur only in rape cases when the judge tries to eliminate any unnecessary testimony that would cause further suffering for the victim.
"The judge has no discretion; he has to close the hearing," says Ingram, echoing Hogshire's earlier statement. "The statute is as clear as it can be," Hogshire said, adding, "We just have to deal with a witness today."
Although defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana and prosecutor Clyde Worrell did not return the Hook's calls requesting information on today's hearing, the name of Schuyler resident William L. Whitehurst appears in the court file. Whitehurst, known locally as "Buck," is a 1984 UVA grad and member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the alleged attack took place. He did not return the Hook's calls for comment.
This case erupted nationally in January after Beebe, as part of a 12-step alcoholics' recovery program, apologized to Seccuro for "harming" and "having raped" her. Publicity skyrocketed in May after newsmagazine "DatelineNBC" grabbed the story.
With new information emerging from behind closed doors, the case could take several twists and turns before the planned November 27 trial. Stay connected to readthehook.com/blog for updates.