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Charlottesville socialite accused of child sex crimes offered plea deal

Federal prosecutors have offered Charlottesville-area socialite Eleanor Hoppe a plea deal that would put the former judge’s wife behind bars for roughly 11 years.

A seemingly exasperated U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, who previously demanded that Hoppe take a deal in December, said in a Tuesday morning filing that his new offer expires the middle of this month.

"There will be no further extensions," Graves wrote in the filing submitted by Senior Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Burrell. "The signed plea paperwork must be emailed to the government by April 17."

Hoppe, the 35-year-old ex-wife of federal magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe, has been jailed for a year, accused of transmitting child pornography and plotting to molest a little girl. Eleanor Hoppe was arrested in March of 2023 at a Warrenton motel where, the prosecution alleges, she was prepared to violate a girl with her father’s consent.

It turned out the father and child were fictions, part of an FBI sting contrived after Hoppe allegedly made entreaties in online chatrooms dedicated to "taboo parenting." While Eleanor Hoppe has claimed that she was the one trying to nab a potential predator, Charlottesville legal analyst David Heilberg says the government appears to have the upper hand in this case.

"The government’s playing hardball," Heilberg told The Daily Progress. "They’re telling her to choose between two unhappy alternatives."

Her other "unhappy alternative" would be to exercise her right to trial, but then there would be no cap on her sentence if convicted on all three original charges, which include sexual enticement of a child. As it stands, Eleanor Hoppe has been offered 135 months, which amounts to 11 years and three months, if she pleads guilty to interstate sexual coercion and transmitting child pornography.

"It looks like they’re angling for an offer of about 10 real years," said Heilberg, noting that federal sentences are usually reduced about 15% for good behavior.

Eleanor Hoppe would be treated both as a first offender and as someone taking responsibility for her actions, said Heilberg, noting that federal judges tend to reward accountability.

"It’s not an easy choice for the defendant, but that’s the kind of leverage the government has," said Heilberg. "Ninety-five percent of people charged in federal court plead guilty, and the government has immense leverage because the sentencing guidelines are so strict."

The most recent round of paperwork came in response to Eleanor Hoppe’s request for a delay in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A hearing had been slated for Wednesday.

"The government does not oppose continuing the status hearing to April 18 or 19," the prosecutor wrote. "However, the government opposes continuing the hearing beyond those dates given the multiple prior continuances requested in this case."

The new status hearing date was set for April 24 on the court’s calendar.

Born Eleanor Beaumont Hunton, the defendant is a scion of the family that founded Richmond’s largest law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. Educated at St. Catherine’s, a private school for girls in Richmond, Eleanor Hoppe later attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After she married Joel Hoppe, she stayed in the area, moving to Glenmore, a golf-centered development in eastern Albemarle County outside the city.

Today, Eleanor Hoppe is held without bail at the Correctional Treatment Facility, a privately run jail overseen by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. The facility is said to integrate mental health and substance abuse programs into the daily lives of offenders.

During her divorce, which was finalized in 2021, a counselor and parenting coach noted that the Hoppes’ two school-age daughters were experiencing "anxiety about Mom’s precarious mental and physical health status." Hoppe has said she has not received her proper daily medications in jail.

Earlier this year, a prosecutor alleged that Hoppe was violating the jail’s rules. Part of the allegation was using other prisoner’s PINs, or personal identification numbers, to make phone calls. Another part, however, was pushing her father and brother to evade call-monitoring at the facility by using their status as lawyers.

Both Eppa Hunton V and Eppa Hunton VI remain in good standing with the Virginia State Bar, but the episode was blasted by Eleanor Hoppe’s prosecutors as "ongoing misconduct."

Like her divorce case, which was partially sealed by the Albemarle County Circuit Court until it became fully sealed after the federal charges against her were revealed, the judge overseeing Eleanor Hoppe’s sex crimes case appears to be shielding some items from public view. On Monday, Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that upcoming motions, oppositions and exhibits could be filed under seal.

Eleanor Hoppe’s proposed plea deal, by contrast, is unusually open, listed in a public document even before it has been accepted.

However, the wording in the filing that describes the proposed plea deal could mean that 135 months is merely the sentence for the pornography charge and the total prison time could be higher. The Daily Progress’ attempts to gain clarity from the prosecutors were not successful, but either way, the amount of time appears below the usual sentencing guidelines.

"It’s basically a form of coercion," said Heilberg. "They don’t come out say it, but they’re saying things could get worse."


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