Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire and other law enforcement officials held a press conference Tuesday to oppose a list of criminal justice reform legislation, including a bill to abolish mandatory minimum sentences.
The virtual conference focused on three bills currently under debate in the state General Assembly aimed at abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, reinstituting parole, and repealing code sections authorizing civil confinement — a process by which people convicted of certain sexual offenses can be subject involuntary commitment at a treatment center upon release from prison.
McGuire and other Louisa County law enforcement officials argued that the bills pose a threat to the community by potentially allowing for the release of violent criminals.
According to McGuire, he decided to call the press conference after SB 1443 — which would eliminate mandatory minimums — passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
Much of the press conference revolved around the crimes of Raymond W. Harry Jr., who in December 2019 was sentenced to five life sentences plus 100 years in prison for a slew of convictions related to raping a child. Harry was convicted after Louisa County authorities uncovered what they described as a “den of hell.”
“I will just suffice it to say is it was horrific, it will turn your stomach, it will turn anyone’s stomach of anyone who ever hears about it,” McGuire said “I’ve been prosecuting sexual predators for over 20 years and it is by far the worst I have ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. It is horrible, there’s just no way around it.”
Harry’s victim, who was 11 when she was found and rescued, was kept inside a wire cage, fed narcotics, and was repeatedly raped and emotionally abused, a detective with the Louisa County Police Department said. To this day she has not emotionally recovered and deals with trauma from her time being abused by Harry.
Harry’s sister, Jacky Harry, also spoke at the press conference, urging viewers not to support the legislation, which she said could allow for people like her brother to be released from prison on parole.
“He shouldn’t be able to have a chance at parole because he hurt not only children, but the rest of his family and we all have to deal with it every day,” she said.
Noodle Neunam, a relative of the victim, made a similar request, occasionally choking back tears as he recounted the difficulty the child victim had recovering.
“He stole her innocence and lied to her, telling her that this is what love looks like,” Neuman said. “As a child, she wanted to please him and make him happy. These are the things he taught her.”
Later in the press conference, McGuire played a portion of a 2019 jail phone call from Harry in which he said he was glad Democrats had taken over the majority because it made his chances of parole more likely.
Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but parole is still available to inmates who were sentenced before the law went into effect; were sentenced under the Youthful Offenders Act; or are eligible for geriatric release.
According to a 2019 report from Capital News Service, the percentage of parole requests has jumped from around 3% in 2014-16 to around 13.5% in 2017.
When an offender requests parole, the Parole Board evaluates the case based on several factors, including compatibility with public safety and the offender’s criminal history and conduct in prison. Candidates for parole are routinely denied for reasons related to the serious natures of their crimes, their potential risk to the community, and their criminal history.