Hung jury in Whisper Ridge case

Hung jury in Whisper Ridge case

Bryan Antwann Vaughan sat solemnly alongside his attorney in the Charlottesville City Courthouse March 19, awaiting a verdict and facing a possible 10 years in prison if convicted of sex-abuse allegations involving two underage female residents at Charlottesville’s Whisper Ridge, a behavioral health facility where Vaughan worked as a specialist.

For now, though, Vaughan will have to keep waiting: The jury emerged deadlocked after three and a half hours of deliberation.

Vaughan was formally charged in August with touching and having consensual intercourse with one of the girls and inappropriately touching the other. The prosecution may try the case again. Elizabeth Killeen, assistant Commonwealth’s attorney, says she will consult with jurors and possibly retry the case during the next grand jury term that begins April 16.

Killeen’s arguments in court focused on the credibility of the two victims. Although the girls failed to report any misconduct until at least three weeks after the incidents allegedly took place, Killeen maintained that the girls were trying to avoid causing any trouble that might be interpreted as behavioral regression and might thus prolong their time at Whisper Ridge.

Bryan Antwann Vaughan, a former specialist at Whisper Ridge, allegedly abused two female patients. His attorneys argued the girls’ stories could have been made up.

Defense attorney David Heilberg also honed in on the girls’ credibility and their desire to get out of the facility, albeit from a very different angle. Heilberg contended that the girls were good friends who worked together to fabricate a set of stories they hoped would be their ticket out of Whisper Ridge. He argued that the older of the teens has a history of manipulation and dishonesty, including one incident in which she filed a police report falsely accusing her stepfather of sexual abuse.

In the hearing’s aftermath, Heilberg admits some post-trial exhaustion and voices concern about jury selection. He says there was only one African-American juror up for consideration, a ratio skewed far below the city’s demographic makeup. Heilberg said he raised the issue before the trial began and would have moved for a mistrial and retrial had Vaughan been convicted.

Vaughan is free on bond and will remain so until a decision is made concerning the possibility of a retrial

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