CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A man who sexually assaulted a fellow student at a fraternity party in 1984, then apologized to her two decades later as part of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program, pleaded guilty Tuesday and could go to prison.
William Beebe calmly entered a plea to aggravated sexual battery as his victim, Liz Seccuro, bowed her head and wiped away tears.
"Twenty-two years ago I harmed another person, and I have tried to set that right," the real estate agent and former University of Virginia student said outside court.
Under the plea bargain, prosecutors asked that Beebe get two years in prison when he is sentenced in March.
Prosecutor Claude Worrell said authorities agreed to the deal in part because the investigation revealed that more than one person may have sexually assaulted Seccuro at the Phi Kappa Psi party. Beebe agreed to cooperate with the investigation into exactly what happened to Seccuro that night.
"We believe that the matter doesn't end here," Worrell said in court.
Beebe, 41, of Las Vegas, had been awaiting trial later this month on charges of rape and object sexual penetration and could have gotten life in prison if convicted.
The ninth step in AA's 12-step recovery program calls on alcoholics to make amends to those they have harmed. Last year, Beebe wrote Seccuro a letter of apology, and an exchange of e-mails ensued, in which he wrote: "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did."
In December, Seccuro called Charlottesville police to report what had happened. Beebe was arrested in Las Vegas.
It was unclear whether Beebe knew he could still be prosecuted for the crime in Virginia, which has no statute of limitations on felonies. Beebe and his attorney refused to answer questions outside court.
Seccuro, now 39 and living in Greenwich, Conn., said she was given a drink at the party that made her feel strange. She said she vividly recalls being assaulted by Beebe and passing out that night. She reported the assault to university officials but said a dean and the campus police treated her dismissively, and the case was never prosecuted. After a few years, she said, she gave up.
When Beebe's letter arrived in September 2005, Seccuro said it opened old wounds, but she eventually replied.
In their e-mails, which Seccuro provided to The Associated Press, Beebe said he had long been haunted by what he had done, and wanted to atone for it.
But Seccuro became upset when his account did not match her memory of the assault, which she describes as savage. She was 17 and a virgin, she said.
After his arrest, Beebe initially claimed he was innocent. His attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, said Beebe had simply wanted to apologize to Seccuro for treating her "thoughtlessly in a college sex encounter."
During his court appearance Tuesday, Beebe glanced at Seccuro often, his expression almost serene. Seccuro — flanked by her husband and former sorority sisters — stared straight ahead, avoiding his gaze.
"This began as an effort to make amends," Beebe said outside court. "In pleading guilty today to a lesser charge, I acknowledge formally what I tried to acknowledge in my letter."
Seccuro went public with her name and story, hoping to lead other sexual assault survivors to seek help. She launched STARS — Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors — to raise money to help rape victims and their families.
"I think that the idea of closure for any victim of a sexual assault is not reality," Seccuro said tearfully outside court. "There is never closure."
Beebe will remain free on bail until his sentencing.