Dumler pleads guilty; vows to continue to serve on Albemarle Board of Supervisors - The Daily Progress: News

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Dumler pleads guilty; vows to continue to serve on Albemarle Board of Supervisors

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:39 pm | Updated: 11:31 am, Fri Feb 1, 2013.

A judge sentenced Albemarle County Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler to 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor sexual battery.

Under the plea deal approved in Albemarle General District Court, Dumler, 27, must make a public apology to the victim, undergo a psychosexual evaluation and receive follow-up counseling, therapy and medications as ordered by Dr. Jeffrey Fracher, a local clinical psychologist and certified sex offender treatment provider.

Arrested in October on a forcible sodomy charge, Dumler accepted the deal for the reduced charge after two more alleged victims came forward, according to court records. Prosecutors agreed not to pursue charges in those cases. Through defense attorney Andrew Sneathern, Dumler maintained his innocence on the original charge.

"He decided to plead guilty to the charge that was reduced, not as to the original charge," Sneathern said.

Sneathern said Dumler plans to apply to serve his sentence at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail on weekends.

The youngest supervisor in county history, Dumler said he plans to remain in office.

"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 via text message Thursday. "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."

Under state law, only a felony conviction would force Dumler out of office. Dumler could be removed through registered voters in the Scottsville District petitioning the circuit court.

A petition would lead to a trial to determine whether Dumler's actions met the specific grounds for removal laid out in state code. The petition would have to be signed by registered voters in the Scottsville District totaling at least 10 percent of the voters who turned out in the last supervisors election.

In the 2011 election, 3,719 people went to the polls, according to the state board of elections. A petition to remove Dumler would require at least 372 signatures.

According to state law, the court has to prove that an elected official neglected his duty, or is convicted of a drug offense or hate crime that "has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office."

Dumler, an attorney, will not be required to register as a sex offender, nor is he prohibited from practicing law, said local attorney Andrew Goodman. According to the sex offender registry website, a second conviction for sexual battery would require Dumler to register.

"It is not something where he is going to be automatically disbarred," Goodman said. "Unless the crime was directly related to his work as an attorney or involved a client or a former client."

Fellow Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, a Republican, worried the conviction would affect Dumler's work as a supervisor.

"As for whether he stays on the board, I cannot put myself in his shoes, because I never would have been in a position like this," Boyd said. "I would think it would be hard for him to maintain the level of integrity we like to have on the board with this hanging over him."

Dumler widely had been regarded as a promising young Democrat when he was elected in November 2011. Fellow Democrat and supervisors Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek as well as Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, an independent who often votes with Dumler, both supported their colleague.

"I'm sorry for the entire set of circumstances," Mallek said. "He certainly has been a good representative so far and I hope he will continue to do so."

Rooker said Dumler's age would make recovering from the conviction easier.

"The capacity to forgive someone who has made a mistake like this is probably greater for a younger person than it is for someone in their 50s or 60s," he said. "The fact that he is a young man, and has a lot of years ahead of him, provides some greater latitude for people to say to themselves, 'This is a youthful mistake,' and he certainly has plenty of time left in his life to give back to the public and redeem himself."

Authorities arrested Dumler on Oct. 18 and released him after fellow Democrat Cynthia Neff used her house as collateral on his $50,000 bond.

Jeffrey W. Haislip, the Fluvanna County Commonwealth's Attorney who handled the prosecution, praised the victim, a woman, for bringing the case to the attention of authorities. The Daily Progress does not identify victims of sexual assault.

"I am just very proud of the victim in this case having the courage to come forward given the circumstances, and to be strong enough to stand up through this so that we got to the place we are today," Haislip said. "I think this was a good outcome given the nature of the case and the type of trial that this would have been."

A judge sentenced Dumler to a year in jail with all but 60 days suspended. Because the crime was a misdemeanor, state law allows Dumler to serve half that time. The judge also ordered Dumler to be placed on two years' supervised probation. The deal bars him from contact with the victim until his probation ends.

Dumler's sentence is scheduled to begin March 8.

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