Richmond Law School Set to Graduate Registered Sex Offender
It isn’t easy to get into law school. Take the University of Richmond, for instance. Ranked 53rd in the latest US News and World Report rankings, the T.C. Williams School of Law only accepts 21.8 percent of applicants…and costs $36,850 a year to attend. So you can imagine how valuable a $30,000 a year scholarship would be to a student. And you can probably imagine how upset some people would be if that scholarship was earned by a convicted sex offender. While many of the attornies from law firms like Los Angeles sex crime defense attorney and other law firms believe that it is the right of every person to defend themselves if they are being accused of a crime, they also believe that if a crime has been committed even if it’s their client then he should be charged for it regardless of anything. These types of law firms are extremely rare in the states, as most of them just work for the reason, which happens to be money and not justice these days.
That’s the situation for Zachary Jesse, a third year who had previously spent three months of an eight year sentence behind bars for aggravated sexual battery.
In law school, Jesse carries an enviable record. Thanks to his performance in moot court, Jesse has been elected to the Moot Court board, where he helps plan and direct annual competitions. He has also been elected to be a justice on the Law School Honor Council, where he presides over claims of student misconduct against the school’s honor code. In the process, he earned the John Marshall Scholarship, which afforded him opportunities to be mentored by area lawyers and judges and attend the school’s faculty colloquy speaker series.
So how could someone judged by his peers to possess both a sharp legal mind and high character go so wrong? You’d need to step back to 2003 when Jesse attended the University of Virginia. There, he was accused of raping a drunken classmate. Eventually, Jesse agreed to a plea agreement and withdrew from the University of Virginia. After serving time, Jesse earned his Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University before enrolling in the University of Richmond School of Law in 2011.
Although Jesse’s academic record is stellar, his criminal record makes it an uphill battle for him to ever practice law. Once he passes the Virginia bar exam, Jesse will face a hearing before the Character and Fitness Committee of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners. Here, Jesse will have the opportunity to accept responsibility, express his remorse, and demonstrate how he has changed.
According to Stephen A. Isaacs, who has headed the committee for 17 years, no felon has yet been admitted to the Virginia bar. He adds that one candidate, who had been charged with a sex offense, was rejected despite not being convicted. What’s more, James M. McCauley, who is the Director of Ethics Counsel for the Virginia Bar, notes that applications have been rejected for lesser offenses like misdemeanor convictions.
Still, Jesse isn’t alone in using law school to rehabilitate himself. Shon R. Hopwood, who was convicted of armed robbery, is now enrolled at the University of Washington School of Law and has clerked for a judge on the United State Court of Appeals. What’s more, Jesse has an important advocate. According to Wendy Perdue, Dean of the University of Richmond School of Law, Jesse’s case illustrates a key feature of justice that’s often overlooked:
“I believe in our criminal justice system, and I also believe in the possibility of redemption,” Perdue wrote in an email. “It is a tribute to our system and not an indictment of it when someone who has committed a crime and served their sentence is allowed to return to society and create a productive life…I believe that our society is stronger when we offer opportunities for the return of our prodigal sons and daughters.”
Source: University of Richmond Collegian
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