NEWS- Final step: Apologizing Beebe awaits his sentence
Four months after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a fellow student in a UVA fraternity house in 1984, 42-year-old William N. Beebe will be sentenced for the nearly 23-year-old crime on Thursday, March 15, in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
Beebe's attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, says her client– who notoriously ignited the investigation by apologizing to his victim as part of a 12-step program– will make a statement to the court, and she notes that numerous character witnesses will testify in an effort to reduce the time he will spend behind bars.
"These are amazing witnesses," says Quagliana. "Some of them describe some pretty horrendous personal circumstances where he saved lives and completely turned people around."
However, the victim, Liz Seccuro of Greenwich, Connecticut, says that Beebe turned her life upside down: "The merits of what he has done lately have no bearing on what sort of sentence he should receive," she says. "It's apples and oranges."
Unlike most victims of sexual crimes, Seccuro has spoken out to the media, and she plans to speak during the hearing. In a five-page victim impact statement, Seccuro argues that Beebe brought devastation into her life following her charmed childhood spent in working class Mt. Vernon, New York.
Adopted at age one, Seccuro writes of doting parents who, despite modest means, made her feel "special and loved." Valedictorian of her all-girls Catholic High School, Seccuro chose UVA over schools closer to home, despite her parents' concern about her being so far away.
"Nothing can describe the hope I had about coming here to Charlottesville to study English literature," she writes. "I was the first in my family to attend college, and I was thrilled."
But her joy was short-lived.
"Not five weeks after my arrival," she writes, "I set out to a party as a favor to a friend, just like all other students all over Grounds, to a place I'd never been."
That place was the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in a stately house at the north end of Mad Bowl on Rugby Road.
That October night (as detailed in the Hook's January 12, 2006 cover story, "I harmed you: 21 years, 12 steps later, rape apology backfires"), Seccuro, a 17-year-old virgin, became incapacitated after accepting a drink. Beebe, she has testified, raped her in his room and left her wrapped in a sheet, unconscious and bleeding.
Twenty-one years later, in September 2005, Beebe sent Seccuro a letter, and the two began an email exchange that lasted two months. In one of those emails, he seemed to confess. "I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you," he wrote. "I did."
Following his January 2006 arrest at his home in Las Vegas, however, Beebe soon changed his story.
"This was bad behavior, poor judgment, immature, and all those other things," said Quagliana after Beebe surrendered to Charlottesville authorities, "but it was not a rape."
On November 14, 2006, Beebe struck a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting to felony sexual battery. Then, during the plea hearing, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell dropped a bombshell: "Other sexual assaults occurred that night by other individuals in that fraternity," he announced. "Beebe has agreed to cooperate."
Worrell declines comment on those other assaults, except to say an investigation is ongoing.
Seccuro, who says she always believed she might have been raped by more than one person, describes in her statement a downward spiral following the assault: "mediocre grades, my disastrous first marriage, my missed opportunities, and low self-esteem."
Seccuro says that Beebe's apology, so many years later, reopened the wound.
"What had been controlled, but lurking under the surface always in my interactions with others, was loosened again," she writes. "Panic and fear rule my world now. The biggest impact is that the past 18 months have been not about living an unfettered, free and happy life, but about the day-to-day strain that this case has put on my family and me."
Seccuro, who launched a victim support group last year, ends her letter with a request that Judge Ted Hogshire impose the maximum sentence suggested in the plea deal: two years behind bars.
"I may live a blessed life with a loving family and a successful career," she writes. "But I've lost much and paid a heavy price these past 22 years. Allow me to continue to help others and to heal myself while not looking over my shoulder."
William Beebe reads a prepared statement outside Charlottesville Circuit Court following his plea on November 14, 2006.
FILE PHOTO BY COURTENEY STUART