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Ashley Plantation residents are fighting to keep a registered offender from moving in.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
The Ashley Plantation neighborhood, with $400,000-plus homes on a golf course in Botetourt County, contains signs like these along Greenfield Street, because a convicted sex offender’s wife is building a home in the community. The husband, Calvert Anthony Thompson, has a history of sexually assaulting young women but was released from prison in June and has reconciled with his wife of 20 years. ]
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
All over the Ashley Plantation neighborhood where Calvert Thompson intends to live, there are signs with his picture on them.
They are not there to welcome him.
Rather, they are to alert all who see them that he’s a convicted rapist with repeated violations who last year was declared a “sexually violent predator” and he’s planning to move into a house with his wife directly across from the neighborhood pool.
Thompson, 48, is free on conditional release, which bars him from living near schools, day care centers and public parks — but apparently includes no conditions that would keep him from moving into the upscale Ashley Plantation subdivision in Botetourt County.
That isn’t stopping the neighbors from trying to keep him out. They’ve gathered 500 signatures on a petition, and written letters to law enforcement, the attorney general, legislators, and the probation and parole office.
“Our biggest concern is to insure [sic] the safety and well-being of our wives, daughters, sisters and mothers,” one letter reads. We want to make sure they do not become victims of Mr. Thompson.”
They’ve even offered to buy the land and house — which is still under construction — from Thompson’s wife of 20 years, Esther Thompson, who is its owner, said Mike Doherty, an attorney who lives in the neighborhood and represents six families trying to keep Thompson out. Adjacent houses in the neighborhood are valued for tax purposes at an average of more than $500,000.
Neither Thompson and his wife nor his attorney returned phone calls Wednesday.
Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom has no official role in the case, as none of Thompson’s convictions nor his declaration as a violent predator occurred in Botetourt courts. But he agrees that Ashley Plantation is “not the right place for him [Thompson] to live.”
“While it may not violate the specifics of the conditions” of Thompson’s release, Branscom said, “it certainly violates the spirit of them.”
Thompson is a Milwaukee, Wis ., native, the son of two pastors who graduated from a Catholic school, according to the background he gave in psychiatric evaluations on file in Roanoke Circuit Court.
Those evaluations indicate Thompson’s first sex offense occurred when he was in college in Wisconsin, when he held a female student in his dorm room against her will.
Later, he was convicted of sexual battery in Tennessee, and while on probation for that offense, was seen near a strip club, a venue he was barred from visiting under conditions of his parole. As a result, he spent five years in prison, until 2006.
He moved to Roanoke to be with his wife, a federal courts employee according to the court file, and within 18 months was in trouble again.
In the course of about a week in December 2007, Thompson was accused by two women of rape — one a waitress at a downtown Roanoke bar, and the other a stripper in a Roanoke strip club — court records show. Thompson also was charged separately with abduction in Roanoke County.
Only the waitress, who was heavily intoxicated at the time of her assault, was willing to pursue a rape prosecution, and Thompson pleaded guilty. He was sentenced in 2009 to 40 years in prison, with all but two years suspended. He was not charged as a result of the other Roanoke rape allegation. Meanwhile, Thompson was convicted of the abduction charge in Roanoke County Circuit Court and sentenced in 2009 to 10 years in prison, with nine years suspended.
Before he was released after serving the combined three years, the state attorney general’s office moved to have Thompson committed indefinitely as a sexually violent predator, and a jury agreed.
Psychiatric evaluations done as part of that proceeding determined Thompson has “high risk” of recidivism, and a “moderate to high risk” of committing another sex crime.
But Roanoke Circuit Judge William Broadhurst ruled that Thompson could be released under certain conditions and with close monitoring by a probation and parole officer.
According to a progress report from his probation officer in the court file dated Dec. 12, Thompson successfully moved from a halfway house into an apartment off U.S. 220 in Roanoke with his wife . He also was able to return to work at his old job at Henebry’s Jewelers in Valley View Mall, where he reported he is the store’s top salesman.
According to online real estate records, Esther Thompson bought the lot in Ashley Plantation for $55,000 in May, just weeks before her husband was released from jail.
Neighbors became aware of her husband’s criminal record when one did a simple Internet search of her name to try to learn who might be moving in, said Doherty, who became involved about a month ago.
Of particular concern is the proximity of the Thompsons’ home across from the neighborhood pool, given that some of Thompson’s offenses began with him watching women with no or next to no clothes in strip clubs.
“Being across from a swimming pool during the summer violates the spirit of the idea of keeping him away from temptation,” Branscom said. “It’s going to be hard for him to succeed in that environment.”
Doherty added that while there is no school in the neighborhood, there are multiple bus stops and the neighborhood’s golf course and other amenities are used by area schools.
Advocates for reform of laws regarding sex offenders, however, argue that there’s no statistical evidence of a connection between where a sex offender lives and the likelihood he or she will reoffend .
“It is a statistical unicorn — a pretty idea that just doesn’t exist,” said Carla Peterson , director of Virginia Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants.
The group’s national board recently unanimously approved a position in favor of abolishing sex offender registries like the one in Virginia where Thompson’s potential neighbors learned of his record.
By stigmatizing offenders, the organization said in a September position paper, “registration laws actually decrease public safety by making it more difficult for former offenders to reintegrate into society, ultimately increasing their likelihood of reoffending.”
Branscom said from a legal standpoint, Thompson’s potential neighbors have done nothing wrong.
“At this point their response has been appropriate,” he said.
“We don’t want to violate the law,” Doherty said. “We’re not making threats.”
But Branscom acknowledged that the whole situation raises the question of where the information provided by the sex offender registry is supposed to lead.
“They’ve been informed,” he said of the Ashley Plantation residents. “What are you supposed to do when you’re informed?”
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