Letter: Sexual battery and no consequences

I want to compliment you on your July 17 editorial, “Sex and consequences.” In fact, I applaud your recognition of the excellent efforts of our school system to educate our children. I have two kids in the system and myself am a graduate of Rappahannock County High School, class of ’83.

However, in the same edition and several past editions there is proof of a growing trend of “Sexual  Battery and No Consequences.” I’m not sure you or your readers understand what is going on in our county’s courtroom.

While we gather to argue and debate over a developer’s plan to renovate a few dilapidated buildings, the children of our county are being sexually battered, abused and fondled by pedophiles and sexual predators — most of whom, due to plea bargains offered by our commonwealth’s attorney, Mr. Art Goff, are receiving only a hard slap on the wrist.

At the risk of being redundant I’ll summarize three separate incidents (one of which is very personal for me), but I urge you read the articles yourself. If Mr. Goff’s behavior and language as quoted is true, it crosses the border on absurdity.

In the June 26 issue, “Berry gets 52 months for sex crimes.”

Thomas Roy Berry pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of taking indecent liberties with a minor under 13. In his closing remarks, Goff recognizes the devastating effects Barry’s actions had on his victims while acknowledging his many “good” family members in attendance and his prowess for giving away free firewood. Mr. Goff goes on to admonish Barry for molesting “not one, not two but three girls,” and finishes his closing remarks by stating society can’t condone these types of charges.

As an example of his indignation over these crimes Mr. Goff ask the judge to sentence Barry to 44 months, “well within the guidelines.” Thankfully the judge saw fit to tack on an additional 10 months. In all, Berry was sentenced to 25 years in prison — a fitting sentence in my opinion and I’m sure in the opinion of his three victims and their families. But thanks to Mr. Goff and the judge all but 52 months were suspended. He’ll be free in less time it takes most people to pay off an auto loan.

In the July 3 issue, there was a story titled “Bragg sentenced to two years for sexual battery.”

To be clear: While being interviewed by the Sheriff’s department, Jerry Russell Bragg admitted to molesting his two sons in his home beginning when the boys were about 10 or 11; the abuse continued until the boys were 16. (Old enough to fight him off, I guess.) However, in a plea made with Mr. Goff, Bragg plead guilty to one count of felonious sexual battery and one misdemeanor sexual battery charge.

How can you even have a misdemeanor sexual battery charge? Apparently Mr. Goff was impressed by the show of support Mr. Bragg received from his “close network of friends” and again argued for a “mid-point” sentence. Glaringly not present, and duly noted by Mr. Bragg himself, was his family. They chose not to show him support. For those two charges, Bragg was sentenced to 11 years in prison with all but two suspended.

Then, in the July 17 issue, “For sex with minor he met online: 10 years probation.”

Phillip Lee Brown of Baltimore, 27 years old, pleaded guilty to one charge of carnal knowledge stemming from consensual sex with a 14-year-old. Mr. Goff stated that Brown was “in love with the girl” whom he sought out and met online (a crime in itself) and would travel to Sperryville from Baltimore regularly to see her. They were eventually discovered having sex in Brown’s car by the minor’s sister, and Brown was subsequently arrested.

Again, Mr. Goff recommended the low end of the sentencing guidelines. Brown did not serve one day in jail for his crime. He sought a minor out online, traveled a great distance to have sex with this girl and only receives 10 years of probation, of which only two are supervised!

Where is the outrage this should be receiving? Myself, the arresting officers and the parents or loved ones of these children cannot be the only ones who feel disgusted by the lack of effort to make these molesters justly pay for their crimes. For God’s sake, stiffer sentences are handed out to those caught in this county with a couple ounces of weed.

I’ll paraphrase a line from the John Grisham novel (and movie), “A Time to Kill”: When taking on these cases and recommending sentences, I wish Mr. Goff would imagine the victims were his children.

Mark Raiford

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