The Dobbs Wire: A case unfolding in Virginia has much to tell us about justice in the U.S. For crime the legal system provides punishment, usually incarceration. In cases of sex wrongdoing, after prison time is done and the price is paid, 20 states and the federal government have something extra – laws that allow keeping an individual locked up, often indefinitely, on a hunch, a mere guess that they might break the law in the future. On the eve of trial for a Virginia gay man, Philip Fornaci and Roger Lancaster spotlight how these ‘civil commitment’ laws can be used by out-of-control prosecutors and callous judges to hijack liberty, have a look! -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire email@example.com
WashingtonPost.com | Aug. 23, 2019
In Arlington, a jury must decide if a nonviolent sex offender should stay incarcerated after serving his sentence
By Philip Fornaci and Roger Lancaster
Excerpts: On Monday, the Circuit Court in liberal Arlington County, Virginia will be the scene of a heavy-handed morality play, with prosecutors seeking lifelong incarceration for a young gay man who has already paid an extraordinary price for youthful, nonviolent sexual indiscretions. Virginia, like 19 other states and the federal government, has a Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA). Under these laws, people who have completed their criminal sentences under any of a large number of sex-related offenses can be indefinitely detained in a high-security facility until the state determines that they no longer present a risk, typically never.
As a standard part of the SVPA process, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services hired a psychologist to determine whether Baughman was a sexual predator. After conducting a mental health assessment, psychologist Ilona Gravers found that Baughman was not a predator and recommended his release. Unsatisfied with this opinion, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), ignored Virginia law and hired a second psychologist, Michelle Sjolinder, who was handpicked by prosecutors outside the statutory process. With the first report in hand, the replacement expert gave the state what it wanted and claimed that Baughman was a SVP in need of potentially lifelong commitment.
Judge Daniel S. Fiore II has barred Baughman’s attorneys from presenting the state’s first psychologist as a witness or from even introducing her report into evidence. This new civil trial will be played out with few of the legal protections assured criminal defendants. It is impossible to call any of this “scientific” or fair. Homophobic bias is built into the process. MORE: