A jury found a Harrisonburg man to be a violent sexual predator Friday during a trial in Rockingham County Circuit Court.
Michael Whisman, 47, pleaded guilty to felony aggravated sexual battery in October 2009. Prosecutors say he molested a 9-year-old girl.
As part of a plea agreement, a judge sentenced Whisman to 20 years in prison with 15 years suspended.
The state filed a civil case to classify Whisman as violent sexual predator because he was about to be released. The state seeks civil commitments on those that they believe are a high risk to reoffend. Those classified are held in custody indefinitely.
After a defendant is deemed to be a violent sexual predator, he is transferred to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services for treatment. For the first five years in custody during a civil commitment, the offender comes up for annual review by a judge. After five years, he comes up for review every two years. The judge can grant release during those hearings. Whisman could have opted for a judge to decide on his status, but instead chose a jury.
Whisman is an alcoholic and pedophile who suffers from personality disorders, according to court documents by the prosecution.
“Dr. [Evan] Nelson opined that because of these mental abnormalities and personality disorders, the respondent finds it difficult to control his predatory behavior, which makes him likely to engage in sexually violent acts,” Christian Obenshain, assistant attorney general wrote in court documents.
Nelson, a clinical psychologist appointed by behaviorial health department to examine Whisman, testified at trial. He said Whisman’s alcoholism puts him at a greater risk to reoffend.
The defense disputed Nelson’s claims.
After hearing the evidence, the seven jurors decided in less than 30 minutes to side with prosecutors.
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