Darrell-watch: Judge extends Rice's ankle monitoring
Should Darrell David Rice be subjected to as much as 12 months additional GPS monitoring and more stringent restrictions on his access to pornography? Federal Court Judge Norman K. Moon decided January 18 that the answer to that question is yes.
Rice was released from prison on July 17, 2007 after serving over a decade for the attempted abduction of a bicyclist in the Shenandoah National Park in 1997. Last summer, less than a week out of jail, Rice took to surfing the web for pornography on his mother's laptop computer. That admission had already pushed the federal court based in Charlottesville to force Rice into sex offender treatment, random polygraphs, and genital testing. In addition, a condition of his parole required him to wear a GPS monitor for six months to allow probation officers to track him as he travels around his new environs in Kent Island, Maryland.
At Friday's hearing, Rice's Maryland-based probation officer, Chris Keating, testified about a letter he wrote requesting extended supervision. He referred to Rice's previous violation of the pornography restriction and suggested that the GPS monitor was for Rice's protection as well as the community's.
Indeed, Rice's transition to normal life has been anything but smooth. In late summer, when neighbors in the idyllic Maryland town realized they had an attempted kidnapper in their midst, they revolted. Rice's Kent Island neighbors began flooding message boards with rumors that Rice was on the verge of– if not in the process of– another attack. Keating suggested that in those cases, authorities were quickly able to debunk the claims because they had hard proof of Rice's whereabouts. The community uproar, Rice's Fairfax-based attorney James Connell said, has led Rice to isolate himself on his family's 16-acre waterfront compound.
Connell argued that the GPS monitoring is interfering with Rice's "integration into the community," something therapists have suggested is critical to Rice's long-term ability to avoid reoffending.
As for additional restrictions on pornography, Connell insisted that Rice is already prohibited from possessing porn. Preventing Rice from going anywhere that pornography can be "used, accessed, or possessed," poses a nearly impossible challenge, Connell said, since Rice might not even realize a store carries such materials before he's already entered. Pulling numerous girlie mags from plastic bags bearing names like Barnes & Noble, Kroger, and 7-11, where adult magazines are sold– and even managing to pull up some porn on his own Blackberry-style phone in the courtroom– Connell pointed out that it would be nearly impossible for Rice to avoid going anywhere pornography might exist or be accessible.
"Would you call the Victoria's Secret catalog pornography?" he asked Keating, who responded in the negative before referring to one well known but vague definition of obscenity. "You know it when you see it," Keating said.
Rice's therapist from the sex offender rehab program he attends confirmed that the program prohibits use of pornography by anyone enrolled.
"We want them to form relationships with people in the community they can have real relationships with," testified social worker Constance W. Pullen, adding that prolonged exposure to porn can cause "fantasies to become deviant."
Pullen said that Rice's isolation could make his recovery difficult. She cited one example in which Keating denied Rice's request to attend a Christmas party thrown by his employer, a chain of stores that check auto emissions. Incidentally, Connell said, Rice was voted "employee of the month" for December.
Both Pullen and Keating testified that Rice has, for the most part, complied with the terms of his probation. Keating, who meets with Rice once a week and is accessible to Rice by cell phone 24 hours a day, testified that on several brief occasions, Rice has gone unmonitored: once, for four minutes when he left his house to smoke a cigarette and didn't take the GPS unit with him; and a second time when he had permission from Keating to run two errands but tacked on a third one without permission. That, Keating said, led to a 45-minute gap where Keating could not account for Rice's whereabouts– but it did not rise to the level of a formal violation.
After an hour and a half of testimony, Moon weighed in, suggesting Rice would be required to wear the GPS for another 12 months and that he would rework the pornography limitation to allow Rice reasonable ability to shop in stores that might stock pornography in addition to other wares.
Although he had argued in court that the continued GPS monitoring was burdensome and unnecessary, standing outside the courthouse after the hearing, Connell said Rice is "not disappointed" that Moon decided to extend monitoring because he realizes "it protects him."
Rice, dressed casually in jeans and a sweater and noticeably slimmer than in photos taken several years ago, stood quietly chatting with two women while Connell fielded questions, then spoke to the media briefly before departing.
"I shouldn't have pled guilty," he said of the attempted kidnapping charge. "I wouldn't have served as much time."
As for difficulties he's encountered in his new life on Kent Island, Rice was matter-of-fact.
"I think it's a few people doing things on the Internet to feed the fire," he said.