A Virginia man by the name of Jesse Lee Herald agree to a very strange and controversial plea deal in his pending criminal case in Shenandoah, Virginia. He voluntarily agreed to plea guilty to save up to a potential of five years off of his prison sentence as long as he will undergo a vasectomy. What is strange about the case is that he is not charged with a sexual offense. He was facing a felony child endangerment case, hit and run charges, and driving on a suspended license. His case involved a crash that bloodied and hurt his 3 year old son.
Herald agreed to a sentence of one year and eight months in prison and the agreement requires that he undergo the vasectomy within one year of being released from prison and it prohibits him from having the vasectomy reversed while he is on probation. What is strange in this case is that the prosecuting attorney came up with the offer even though this was not a sexual offense. The prosecutor, Ilona White, had reviewed a previous transcript from another case involving Herald and she learned that he had at least 7 children by 6 different women. “He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” stated the prosecutor.
According to Herald’s attorney, Charles Ramsey, his client was reluctant to accept the deal. Ramsey made it clear that he had an ethical duty to pass on the strange plea deal to his client and indicated that he had some concerns about the deal but that it was not his decision. Herald will have to pay for the vasectomy himself and this type of surgery can cost up to $1000.00. The Court granted him year after he is released from prison to get the surgery so that he will have time to raise the money for the procedure.
This very unique plea deal has raised some eyebrows in the legal community. Steve Benjamin the past president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said that he had never heard of such a deal before. He stated “sentencing conditions are designed to prevent future criminal behavior” and “Fathering children is not criminal behavior”. This deal has raised comparisons to the United States practice of sterilization in the 1920s through the 1970s. Thousands of people were forcibly sterilized in Virginia and many other states. Most states abandoned forced sterilizations because the practice was closely associated with Nazi Germany’s racial purity efforts.
This case is an example of the criminal justice system trying to get creative when it comes to sentencing. What is completely unique about this case is that the underlying case had nothing to do with the defendant and how many children he had. You would expect that this would have been a sexual offense or some type of criminal nonsupport case. As an attorney your job is to represent your clients to the best of your ability and give your client options so that they can make a decision on whether to plea guilty or not. Many times as an attorney my client will come to me and tell me that they will do whatever is necessary to keep them out of prison.