NEWS- No arrests: Has Seccuro case hit a wall?
In December, a prosecutor in what's become known as the "12-step rape" case made a stunning revelation after William N. Beebe pled guilty to reduced charges over what happened in the 1984 UVA fraternity house incident: other assaults occurred that night in the same fraternity. In exchange for a lighter sentence, Beebe, said Deputy Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell, had agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the other alleged assaults.
Eight months later, however, Beebe– who could have received 20 years or more in prison had he been convicted of felony rape– remains in Charlottesville-Albemarle jail having served nearly four months of his two-year sentence for the reduced charge of felony assault and battery. There have been no other arrests– indeed, no other suspect has been named publicly.
Worrell declines comment on the case or on Beebe's contributions, if any, except to say the investigation is ongoing. However, Beebe's victim, Liz Seccuro, suspects there's a reason things are not moving as quickly as she would wish.
"Mr. Beebe was given a deal in exchange for his cooperation in bringing to justice his cohorts," says Seccuro. "From what I understand," she says, "that [cooperation] has not occurred."
Seccuro was 17 when Beebe assaulted her in UVA's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in October 1984 (as was detailed in the Hook's January 12, 2005 cover story). Beebe, now 42, declines to be interviewed. His attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, says Beebe has told investigators everything he knows; he just didn't know as much as they wanted.
Part of the problem may be the expense for a small locality like Charlottesville of staging a national or international investigation. According to UVA alumni records, Phi Kappa Psi brothers who attended UVA in 1984 are scattered across the country, and several live overseas. The budget for both the police and the Commonwealth's Attorney are set by the City Council annually.
Chief Tim Longo declined to comment on the departments expenditures, and Mayor David Brown says there have been no requests from either department for additional funding, and the City's chief prosecutor, Dave Chapman, says that money would never be the cause of seemingly slow case.
If it appears the investigation is stagnating, Seccuro is gaining steam and taking her story to podiums nationwide. In April, Seccuro– who is shopping a yet-to-be-titled memoir– signed with both the ICM literary agency and with the American Program Bureau, the largest speaking agency in the world.
The Bureau's Ken Eisenstein says he expects her presentation, titled "My Story: The Journey from Victim to Survivor to Activist," to be in demand on college campuses beginning this fall. The Bureau represents hundreds of celebrity speakers including Michael Douglas, Larry King, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bette Midler, and Jon Stewart. And while such household names may demand six figures for their speaking engagements, he says pay for lesser known speakers at colleges starts at a more modest $5,000.
"She has a very, very interesting story," says Eisenstein. "I think the story of the justice delayed and the fact that after so long they were able to get a confession and bring some kind of closure to it is amazing."
Eisenstein hopes Seccuro will be an inspiration to other victims of campus sexual assault, which she points out remains a critical problem. She cites the De Anza Community College baseball team rape scandal, in which three female soccer players claim to have witnessed a sexual assault at the California school, yet no charges have been filed, and the recent death of a female student at Eastern Michigan State university in fall 2006, which– the university only later revealed to students and the girl's own family– resulted from a sexual assault and murder.
Perhaps the best known campus sexual assault case, however, has set back the cause of rape victims, Seccuro says, referring to the Duke University lacrosse team brouhaha last spring.
"Now that these three exonerated men have been all but canonized by the media," she says, "all juries will believe that all prosecutors are Mike Nifong and that all complaining witnesses are liars."
In May, Seccuro gave her first lecture to an audience of 600 at a YWCA in St. Louis, Missouri, an experience she calls "profound." She says the turnout, which included the Mayor of St. Louis, the Chief of Police, and various members of law enforcement, encouraged her.
It "made me realize there are indeed people who want to do better, learn more, figure this thing out," she says. "I may have lost my private life a bit, but when people want to change and do nothing to engender it, it merely contributes to the problem."