Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler pled guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery last Thursday, in a bargain with prosecutors that lessened his felony charge to a misdemeanor.
After his October arrest for forcible sodomy—a felony punishable by five years to life in prison—the 27-year-old Democrat promised to offer a “vigorous defense.” Albemarle County voters looking forward to obtaining a measure of clarity about Dumler’s conduct will be disappointed by the outcome, but the Scottsville supervisor claims he took the deal so he could resume his work on their behalf.
“One of the reasons I took this plea was so I could get right back to work for the people of the Scottsville District,” he said. “This plea in no way precludes me from continuing to serve, and I look forward to getting back to the work of the Board and the citizens who elected me to represent their interests.”
Last week’s speedy hearing in Albemarle County Circuit Court resulted in a 30-day jail sentence. Three witnesses were subpoenaed for the hearing, but nobody took the stand, and Judge William Barkley made his decision within minutes. If the regional jail accepts Dumler’s request, he will serve his jail time on weekends beginning March 8.
Reactions to the decision varied. Fellow Board member, Rivanna district Republican Ken Boyd, called on Dumler to resign from the position he’s held only since January of last year.
“Quite honestly, I think the honorable thing to do would be to step down from his position,” said Boyd.
Boyd said he can’t get past the fact that his co-worker, a public official, hurt people with his actions.
“We’ve got to remember that there are victims in this case. I’m having trouble just sort of ignoring that,” he said. “The victim is not Mr. Dumler. It’s the people who brought these accusations.”
The deal left many questions unanswered. While special prosecutor Jeff Haislip said it’s common for defendants to plead guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid a felony trial, public servants are normally held to a higher standard of moral disclosure.
“[H]ow can he possibly think the people of Scottsville STILL WANT him representing them?” a commenter wrote on
C-VILLE’s most recent story about Dumler.
The first victim, a woman Dumler knew and admitted to being sexually involved with, accused him of forcing unwanted anal sex on her. According to legal documents, two more women came forward days before the hearing, accusing Dumler of repeated sexual abuse. Neither he nor defense attorney Andrew Sneathern confirmed whether the new accusations expedited the process, but as part of the plea bargain prosecutors will not press charges against Dumler in those two cases.
“The Commonwealth agrees not to bring criminal charges in cases involving the two additional complainants now known to the Commonwealth,” the agreement states. “The Commonwealth will not use any evidence or information obtained in the course of this investigation to prosecute Defendant further, nor bring any additional criminal charges regarding any other known potential victim.”
The agreement also states that Dumler must exhibit “good behavior” for the next two years and avoid contact with the victims named in the case. In addition, he is to undergo a psychosexual evaluation by Dr. Jeffrey Fracher to determine future counseling or medication, and perhaps most interesting, was required to issue a public apology for his actions.
Dumler’s apology came hours after the hearing:
“While I am pleased to have this matter completed, it is very important that I apologize to the complainant in this case,” he said. “I am profoundly sorry for any hurt that my actions caused her. Additionally, to the others who were hurt or disappointed by my behavior, to them I humbly apologize.”
Despite concern from some residents and Board members, at least one of his colleagues said he respected Dumler’s decision to remain on the Board.
Fellow Democrat and attorney Dennis Rooker said he saw no difference in Dumler’s effectiveness as a Board member since the arrest, and he hopes everyone can move forward.
“When the charges were brought against him, I was concerned with how it might affect his performance,” Rooker said. “I have watched him very carefully for the past several months, and I haven’t seen his performance diminish. And I would expect that having this behind him now would help.”
As for Dumler’s future as a politician—in Albemarle or otherwise—Rooker said he’s young and has time to be forgiven. Politicians have had legal run-ins for years, he said, and still managed to prove themselves worthy leaders.
“The longer you have to prove that, the more chance that ultimately the public will judge you based on what is happening today, not what you did in the past,” Rooker said. “Having this resolved is good for Chris, and it’s good for the Board.”
Whether or not Rooker’s explanation is good enough for Albemarle voters remains to be seen, and Dumler has just under three years left in his term as Supervisor.