Published July, 2018

Letter to the Attorney General of Virginia Re: Commonwealth v. Baughman, The Center for HIV Law and Policy et al. (July 28, 2018)


This letter, authored by CHLP and co-signed by dozens of advocacy organizations, urged Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to put an end to the homophobic civil commitment prosecution of noted activist Galen Baughman. Baughman, who was incarcerated for nine years for a sex offense conviction as a teenager, was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2015 to campaign against Virginia's indefinite civil commitment of young people deemed "sexually violent predators." When Baughman was re-arrested for a probation violation the following year, Virginia sought to civilly commit him under the same statute that was the subject of his activism. In the run-up to his trial, activists used it as an opportunity to draw attention to the injustice of Virginia's civil commitment scheme, including an op-ed in the Washington Post as well as an op-ed by Arlington's delegate in the Virginia legislature.
In this letter, which was sent long before Baughman's 2019 trial, advocates pointed out several factors that suggest that the effort to civilly commit Baughman was motivated by bias. Among them were that the conduct cited in the parole violation would not in and of itself have been a crime, let alone something for which indefinite detention would be a proportional response; that Baughman had no history of violence; and that the prosecution relied on expert testimony that essentially stated that any conduct between a gay man and a younger man amounted to "grooming."
Unfortunately, after a trial in October 2019, Baughman was found to be a "sexually violent predator" by a jury in Arlington, Virginia, and as of November 2019, is currently awaiting a judicial determination as to whether he must remain committed.