The Sentencing

Next Wednesday we will listen as Drew’s attorney addresses three justices at the Supreme Court of Virginia. They will hold our son’s future and life in their hands. I have never had so many feelings hit me all at once with this much impact. I feel scared, vulnerable, sad, alone and weak. I’ve never felt weak. Throughout this entire process I have held onto faith and the belief that common sense has to kick in at some point, and that Drew’s case would be overturned. Wednesday can’t come fast enough and yet in another way I never want it to come. I can’t fully express all that I’m feeling. It’s hard to concentrate. It’s hard to write. It’s hard to talk. I am a yoga teacher, and right now I even find it hard to breathe.

Writing this blog has stirred up more emotions than I ever could have imagined. The feelings from each jail visit, moments in a courtroom, and watching my son while we wait for the next painful event are vivid. Opening up the horrible transcripts to write this blog inundates me with renewed anguish and anger. Experiencing each harsh moment has chipped away at the trust I once had in our criminal justice system. But, I must know that I have done everything I possibly can do to save my son’s precious life. And, in this process hopefully create positive change within our criminal justice system.

I’m not usually an ‘I can’t person’ but I know for my own health I can’t transcribe pages of the ridiculous arguments made by the prosecutor while the judge clearly backed her up. It’s just too raw right now. And, I will spare you the painful plea my son made to the judge begging him not to send him to prison. But, it was my goal to have most of the story told, including the sentencing before his hearing on August 31st.

I am providing an excerpt from the judge’s conviction below:

Judge: Also, and it’s difficult to put this into words, but when we address any of these offenses we frankly have to determine if the facts of the individual offenses are heinous and horrible or something at the other end of the spectrum. I have to tread carefully here, but I have to tell you honestly how I see it. In this case I am convinced and will remain convinced – – (defense attorney) and I will respectfully disagree—that the crimes charges were committed. It is a factor when one considers such an offense as these charged offenses. Was it to be blunt, a stranger who grabbed a woman off a jogging trail in the middle of the night, that she didn’t know, that committed these offenses violently in the woods? Or is it somewhat towards the other end of the scale? Someone that the victim knew and was not physically harmed to a significant extent. We saw the bruises and the statement. 

I have to stop here for a moment. The person the judge refers to as the victim is the woman. And under oath she stated that she only had some tiny marks (indentations) from some small bracelets she was wearing that pressed into her skin. She said nothing about bruises until she wrote her victim impact statement a couple months after the trial, and even that states light bruises that faded quickly. ‘Physical damage’ is part of the sentencing guidelines. This judge allowed the physical damage to remain despite hearing her trial testimony that there was “no damage”. This added time to Drew’s sentence. Unbelievable!

Back to the judge:

Judge: Criminal sentences serve several purposes, deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, punishment, call it what you will. I think a sentence today would serve no deterrent purpose. I don’t think, in other words, there’s much risk we’re going to see Mr. Harrison again. Rehabilitation, realistically, he needs the services of more skilled partitioners to get there. Put another way, he need rehabilitation, but he’s not going to find the best of that in the prison system. But, I come back to what I mentioned last, which is retribution and punishment. That’s a necessary part of sentencing. This lady’s life is not going to be the same. That’s a factor that weights as a counter balance on all of the other factors that I think are generally mitigating, as I’ve mentioned. 

I sat there wondering if the judge was listening when the woman testified that she continued to hang out with Drew after the alleged assault. Did he note that she continued to send him erotic, sexual stories she was writing and encouraged him to write with her? I wondered what the judge did with the testimony about the erotic book she pointed out for him to buy to improve his writing talents in the erotica genre.

The judge says her life will never be the same. I’m not even sure what that means. If her life is not going to be the same as he states, what is he specifically referencing? The victim impact statement strongly indicates that the woman’s focus was on the distasteful messages Drew wrote and the impact the trial process had on her.

Back to the judge:

Judge: Taking all of that into account, the sentences shall be as follows: On the charge of forcible sodomy, the sentence shall be 25 years in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections with 22 of the 25 years suspended for a suspension period of life. With respect to the charge of object sexual penetration, the sentence shall be 25 years in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections, suspending 25 years for the suspension period of life. After the completion of the active portion – – 

The Bailiff: Judge, want to step off. We’ve got a situation. 

Judge: We’ll be in recess.  (A break was taken.) 

The break was taken because I fainted. I was the situation. I didn’t know the judge would be saying more. I didn’t know anything at that point except that I doubted I would ever touch or hug my son again. I couldn’t breathe.

Back to the judge:

Judge:  We’re back on the record for the continuation of the sentence. I had stated the sentence previously on both charges. I’ll continue as follows. The conditions on which the sentences are suspended in part are the following: First, Mr. Harrison to keep the peace and be of good behavior. That means never again get into any legal trouble of any kind in any place. Second, after completion of the active portion of this sentence, Mr. Harrison will be on indefinite supervised probation. That probation shall end only when the probation officer determines it appropriate to end. Further, Mr. Harrison will be required to register as a sex offender.

In another post, another time, I’ll address the likelihood of someone on the autism spectrum being arrested for what can only appear to be criminal behavior.

The judge acknowledged that this wasn’t a heinous crime but something on the other end of the spectrum. It makes me wonder if he gives 50 years for this end of the spectrum what would he do if he deemed it to be heinous? I mean what’s left – the death sentence?

If you haven’t read my other posts it is important to know that in this case sodomy refers to Drew performing oral sex upon her, allegedly against her will. And, object penetration refers to Drew inserting his finger into her vagina.

I want to be clear that I don’t approve of anyone at any time, under any circumstances sexually assaulting anyone. I feel deeply for those who have been sexually assaulted. In fact, I spent years going to therapy, usually weekly sessions to move from victim to survivor of my personal sexual assault experience.

I also find it odd that the prosecutor and judge didn’t see issues with parts of the woman’s victim impact statement. She states that she had been trying to get into therapy but no doctors were accepting new patients. Most of us have experienced being told the doctor isn’t currently accepting new patients. But, claiming that in the Richmond, Virginia area from March, 2012 to around May, 2014 that NO doctors were accepting new patients? Is this a credible statement?

Drew maintains he is innocent of any forced sexual activity, ever. And, he passed a polygraph (100% with no deception) stating such. He pled guilty to sending a profane text that he regrets deeply. He has genuine remorse for any pain his writings caused the woman, and her family. He has more than paid the price for disrespectful and distasteful messages. The judge is correct when he states, he’s not going to find the best of that in the prison system. The judge is referring to Drew receiving rehabilitation in prison. Did the judge miss the testimony by Drew and his therapist that after over 2 years of weekly therapy, and the 2 month, residential, intensive treatment program in California, that Drew had learned and was putting into daily practice new communication skills?

Since none of us were in the apartment that night we can’t say for certain what happened. Only two people were there, the woman and my son. But, we do know that due process is a fundamental right for all citizens. And, that a person is to be found guilty ONLY when guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was NOT proven. It was the opinion of the judge. And sadly, the opinion of a judge has carried a lot of weight; too much weight, tipping the scales of justice against my son’s innocence.

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