- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE — It all began as one recovering alcoholic’s effort to make amends.

But William N. Beebe’s apology to Liz Seccuro for sexually assaulting her 22 years ago has landed him on the path to prison, reopened old wounds for Mrs. Seccuro and started an investigation that could lead to additional arrests.

Beebe entered his guilty plea in Charlottesville Circuit Court yesterday to one count of aggravated sexual battery for assaulting Mrs. Seccuro during an October 1984 party at the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. Under the plea agreement, the state recommended that Beebe serve two years in prison.

Prosecutor Claude Worrell told the court that one of the reasons the prosecution agreed to a plea is because the investigation has revealed that more than one person may have sexually assaulted Mrs. Seccuro, who said she was given a drink that made her feel strange. She vividly recalls being assaulted by Beebe and passing out at some point during the night.

“We believe that the matter doesn’t end here,” Mr. Worrell told the court.

As part of the plea agreement, Beebe has agreed to cooperate with authorities as they continue their investigation into exactly what happened that night.

Judge Edward Hogshire set formal sentencing for March 15. Beebe will remain free on bond until then.

“This began as an effort to make amends,” Beebe said outside of court. “In pleading guilty today to a lesser charge, I acknowledge formally what I tried to acknowledge in my letter.

“Twenty-two years ago, I harmed another person, and I have tried to set that right.”

Beebe, 41, of Las Vegas, had been scheduled to face trial Nov. 27 on charges of rape and object sexual penetration. He could have faced life in prison if convicted of those charges.

Under Alcoholics Anonymous’ ninth step, alcoholics are advised to make amends to those they have harmed, unless doing so would cause further injury.

Last year, Beebe — a member of AA — decided to write Mrs. Seccuro a letter to make amends for assaulting her.

Mrs. Seccuro, now 39 and living in Greenwich, Conn., said Beebe’s letter in September 2005 reopened old wounds. She eventually replied, and the two entered into a two-month e-mail correspondence.

In their e-mails, which Mrs. Seccuro provided to the Associated Press, Beebe told Mrs. Seccuro he had long been haunted by what he had done and wanted to atone for having harmed her.

But Mrs. Seccuro became upset when his account did not match with her memory of the assault, which she describes as violent and savage. She was just 17 and still a virgin when Beebe attacked her, she said.

In December, Mrs. Seccuro decided to call the Charlottesville police to report what had happened. As there is no statute of limitations on felonies in Virginia, Beebe was arrested in Las Vegas and extradited to Virginia.

After his arrest, Beebe initially said he was not guilty. His attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, said Beebe had simply wanted to apologize to Mrs. Seccuro for treating her “thoughtlessly in a college sex encounter.”

However, Beebe’s own writings to Mrs. Seccuro told a different story. In one e-mail, he wrote, “I want to make clear that I’m not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did.”

During his court appearance yesterday, Beebe glanced at Mrs. Seccuro often, his expression almost serene.

Mrs. Seccuro — flanked by former sorority sisters and husband — stared straight ahead, avoiding his gaze.

When Beebe at last stood and entered his plea — “guilty as charged” — Mrs. Seccuro bowed her head and wiped away tears.

“I think that the idea of closure for any victim of a sexual assault is not reality. There is never closure,” Mrs. Seccuro said outside court. “However, in light of this new evidence, I understand that it doesn’t end in the immediate future, and it’s far more grave than previously thought.”

Mrs. Seccuro went public with her name and story, hoping to inspire other sexual-assault survivors to seek help. She initiated a donor fund called STARS — Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors — to raise money for programs helping rape victims and their families.

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