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Second chance is possible after sexual assault conviction

When defendants in Missouri are found guilty of criminal sexual conduct, most people's expectation is that a lengthy sentence will follow. But one sexual abuse defendant -- well-known to University of Missouri football fans -- has been given a second chance.

Derrick Washington -- then a running back for Missouri -- was convicted in 2011 of deviate sexual assault in Boone County, Missouri. Prosecutors alleged that he sexually assaulted his former tutor. They requested that the judge sentence him to the maximum prison term: seven years behind bars.

Instead, the judge sentenced Washington to five years in prison, with a possibility of parole after 120 days. Washington completed the 120 days to the judge's satisfaction; he was paroled in time to play in the 2012 college football season. He is now a starter for another team located in another state.

Why was Washington paroled so early after the sexual abuse conviction? As a first-time offender, he was found to be eligible for a 120-day shock incarceration program. The offender is placed in the general prison population for a roughly four-month period.

This program has turned out to be a great deal for Washington. He has been allowed to continue his college football career. However, because he was found guilty of sexual assault, Washington will still need to register as a sex offender.

Individuals accused of sexual assault, forcible rape or other sex crimes should remember that there is a presumption of their innocence; this presumption can only be overcome with evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the best course of action may be to fight the charges in court. Often, prosecutors find that their evidence cannot meet this high standard, resulting in an acquittal and resumption of normal life.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Ex-Mizzou RB seeks second chance at Tuskegee," Sept 13, 2012

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