by Charlie Clark, September 4, 2019 5:27 PM
Our Man in Arlington.
A culture-clash of a trial will resume in late September in Arlington Circuit Court. The scantly reported-on civil procedure involves the disturbing topic of predatory sexual behavior and the Virginia laws intended to protect potential victims.
The trial, preliminaries for which I attended Aug. 26, involves an Arlington family eager to spring a son from an open-ended incarceration they feel the state is pursuing to make a statement against a gay man.
Galen Baughman, 35, a graduate of H-B Woodlawn Secondary program who studied opera at Indiana University, is a convicted sex offender.
His troubles, according to materials given me by Philip Fornaci, a civil rights attorney cooperating with Baughman’s legal team, date back to when he was 14 and had apparently consensual sex with a fellow teen. At 19, he was convicted of that and sex with another underage boy and sentenced to seven years in Virginia prisons. The state kept him longer, until a two-day trial in March 2012, when a jury refused to label him a sexually violent predator.
Released on probation, Baughman became a spokesman advocating reform of sexual predator laws, recording a Ted Talk and winning a Fellowship from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. In 2015, he was accused of violating parole, for texting an allegedly inappropriate conversation with a 16-year-old. The state rearrested him in 2016.
Lawyer Fornaci, in a Washington Post op-ed, noted that under the Sexually Violent Predators Act, “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.”
Judge Daniel Fiore is considering Baughman’s mental health. As the court prepared for voir dire, he grew annoyed that the defense team requested more time than the allotted five days. The defense plans to challenge the commonwealth’s paying an expert psychologist appointed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. They also plan to probe jurors for bias in attitudes toward Soros and the topical Jeffrey Epstein case.
The commonwealth’s lawyers, who have the burden of proof to keep Baughman in prison, consulted the deputy attorney general during a recess. They then argued the tightened schedule created “too prejudicial an environment for the Commonwealth to receive a fair trial.” Judge Fiore reluctantly rescheduled it for two weeks starting Sept. 30.
My queries to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office went unanswered. Local Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos confirmed that the original case came out of her office, that Baughman pleaded guilty, but said she has nothing to do with the AG’s current pursuit.
Delegate Patrick Hope told me, “There’s nothing about Galen’s past that suggests he’s dangerous or likely to reoffend. But Virginia’s [sex] laws and civil commitment proceedings, in particular, are so arcane and seriously flawed, the AG’s office is blindly following a pattern of prosecution that is neither evidence-based or just. This area of the law is in serious and desperate need of reform based on science and evidence.”
Baughman, after three years in Arlington jail, sat wearing a suit cheerfully chatting with his two pro bono attorneys, his mother and grandmother behind him.
Ray Anderson, Baughman’s high school principal, was there to vouch for his character back when he was an Arlington teen who merely wanted to be a singer.