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Rapist’s quick release draws ire

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

RICHMOND — A man who sexually assaulted a fellow University of Virginia student in 1984 and apologized to her two decades later as part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program is scheduled to be released from prison on parole after serving six months of an 18-month sentence.

William Beebe has a projected release date of Sept. 17, Virginia Department of Corrections officials said yesterday.

Beebe, 42, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty in November to one count of aggravated sexual battery for his attack on Liz Seccuro. In March, a judge ordered a 10-year prison sentence with all but 18 months suspended.

Mrs. Seccuro was shocked Tuesday when informed of Beebe's impending release from his parole officer. She said she was never given the opportunity to speak to the parole board.

"Everywhere in America I've seen, the victim has a say," Mrs. Seccuro said. "And that's the problem: Rape victims are voiceless."

Virginia abolished parole for all crimes committed after 1994, but because the crime occurred a decade earlier, Beebe is a candidate for early release. His parole officer declined to comment yesterday and a message left for a representative of the parole board was not returned.

"He only got 18 months on a plea deal, so according to the time that was computed under the old system, this is when he was eligible to be released," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Barbara Woodhouse said.

Prosecutor Dave Chapman said although he knew Beebe would be eligible for parole, a release date after just six months is surprising.

"It is an excellent illustration of why the abolition of parole was appropriate, advisable and sensible," Mr. Chapman said.

The case was revived in 2005 after Beebe wrote Mrs. Seccuro a letter of apology in an attempt to atone for the fraternity party assault as part of AA's 12-step recovery program. The program's ninth step calls on alcoholics to make amends to those they have harmed — unless doing so would cause further injury. In an exchange of e-mails that ensued, Beebe wrote: "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did."

Mrs. Seccuro, 40, of Greenwich, Conn., eventually called Charlottesville police to report what had happened. There is no statute of limitations on felonies in Virginia.

Beebe was originally charged with rape and object sexual penetration and could have received life in prison. But in November, he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after investigators uncovered information suggesting that Mrs. Seccuro was attacked by more than one person that night.

Mrs. Seccuro was given a drink at the party that made her feel strange, and she later passed out, leaving her memory hazy. She said she vividly recalls being attacked by Beebe, but always had a vague impression that she had been assaulted by additional members of the fraternity.

Authorities had hoped Beebe could assist them in their investigation, but prosecutors said he gave them no helpful information. Last month, officials told the Associated Press they had exhausted all leads and the case stalled.

Mrs. Seccuro went public with her name and story, hoping to lead other sexual assault survivors to seek help. She founded STARS — Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors — to raise money for rape victims and their families.

"If Virginia is so very proud of the fact that there is no statute of limitations on rape, then the sentencing has to follow suit," Mrs. Seccuro said. "All I ever wanted was for the people who were responsible to be held accountable — but to be held accountable properly. And I don't think this is proper."