Jeannie Virts watched as Douglas Lester Sexton was led away in handcuffs on March 28, ordered to undergo an in-patient psychological evaluation at the high-security Clifton T. Perkins hospital in Jessup.
“Don’t put them on too tight,” Sexton said as the cuffs locked onto his wrists.
The order came at the end of a status hearing in Sexton’s multiple child rape cases. Virts told police that Sexton had sex with her every day for several years in the 1980s, beginning when she was an 11-year-old babysitter for the family. Virts’ allegations joined those of another woman who had babysat for Sexton’s developmentally disabled daughter, Danielle, in the late 1970s. Sexton has faced multiple child abuse counts since 2010, but the question of his mental competency—both at the time of the alleged crimes and today—has delayed the case and he had remained free (“Keeping Secrets,” Feature, March 14).
Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin reviewed Sexton’s case aloud before making her finding. The Sexton case was handled by the book, the judge indicated, beginning with an assessment by a court psychologist, then progressing to an evaluation at Perkins last year, which opined that Sexton was incompetent but not dangerous. The diagnosis was “cognitive disorder not otherwise specified,” Rasin said in open court.
The judge said the evaluation was filed under seal in the court record, and that Sexton was monitored by a pretrial release agent, the same as any other defendant who was out on bail. The judge’s order required that Sexton obtain a neurological exam and “that he stay away from children except when supervised,” Rasin said.
Sexton was seen by Veterans Administration doctors and prescribed an antidepressant medication. The judge held monthly status hearings through February while awaiting a final disposition for treatment. “We postponed it to find out what the plan was going to be,” Rasin said. “We wanted a plan from the VA.”
At the February hearing the judge received a psychosocial evaluation from a VA social worker that described a probable dementia that might be reversible. She said the report described prescribed activities “to retrain his memory, but my understanding is that he’s not been referred for that.” Rasin then asked Sexton, who was seated in the witness box, about his medical treatment.
“They put me in a day program,” Sexton replied.
“That’s interesting,” Rasin said. “We didn’t know about that.”
After learning from Sexton that his new program was supposed to begin the next day, Rasin asked the state’s attorney, Tracy Varda, for her recommendation. “I reviewed the three [psychological] reports,” Varda said, “and it seems to me there are some inconsistencies. . . . We’re not satisfied that this is an accurate assessment of his abilities.” Varda asked for an in-patient evaluation.
“The court as well took the latest consultation report and compared it to the Perkins report,” Rasin said. She asked Sexton if he had an appointment with a neuropsychologist.
Sexton replied that one was upcoming. He described the doctor he saw as a woman “about your age.”
“How old do you think I am?” the judge asked, smiling.
“You’re very active,” Sexton replied. “You’re a very nice judge.” He said he didn’t know any other judges because he had never been to court before, other than for traffic infractions or parking tickets.
“At any event, things are not moving along as I would like them, in terms of getting evaluations,” Rasin said, addressing the rest of the courtroom. “Mr. Sexton must be re-evaluated. I share the state’s view that an in-patient evaluation would be much more thorough—after all, the out-patient exam only lasted two hours.”
Sexton’s lawyer, Jason Silverstein, said he didn’t object to the new evaluation, but added, “I think it could be done on an out-patient basis.”
“I have always had a preference for in-patient evaluations,” Rasin replied. “I think there is potentially a lot of work to be done on this.” She set a new hearing for May 9 with a caveat that it may be rescheduled to an earlier date if Perkins delivers its report sooner.
“I attempted to talk to the doctor at the VA myself, but he wanted a release,” Rasin said. “Mr. Sexton is executing that right now.” Rasin turned to Sexton. “Mr. Sexton, this just says, this gives me permission” to look at your medical record at the VA.
“I’m OK,” Sexton said. He hunched over and signed the paper.
The judge said she felt “ethically bound” to share with both the prosecutor and defense a letter she received from one of the alleged victims. In the audience, seated next to her brother and sister, Virts told a reporter that she sent the letter to the judge.
A few minutes later the sheriff’s deputies moved to take Sexton out, lightly touching the 77-year-old man’s elbow as they led him to the courtroom door, toward where his wife and daughter were waiting outside. “Bye, Jeannie,” Sexton said with a slight wave as he passed his former babysitter.
Silverstein asked that his client not be cuffed, at least not yet. The deputy shook his head, and they cuffed Sexton’s hands in front of him in the vestibule, out of sight of the main courtroom but not quite in the hallway. “Please don’t get ’em so tight,” Sexton repeated as he waited to be led out.
Virts and her sister Mary Brown and brother Eugene Waybright crowded in the doorway, right behind Sexton. Silverstein asked the deputies to hold back the family, and the deputies complied, backing the spectators into the courtroom to bring in more defendants as Sexton was led out.
“I’m not answering any questions,” Silverstein said.
Later, Virts says seeing Sexton in handcuffs did not make her feel good. “I just wanted him to pay in some way,” she wrote in an e-mail to City Paper. “I told the judge I didn’t want to see him go to jail, but he should be in an institution.
“He didn’t care how I feel, so why do I feel like the bad guy for taking Danielle’s dad away from her?”