December, 16 2017

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Charges Dropped against Whisper Ridge in Virginia

Authorities dropped charges Wednesday against a former mental health specialist accused of sexually abusing two teenage residents at a Charlottesville home for troubled teens.
Bryan Antwann Vaughan, 33, was one of five Whisper Ridge employees charged with misconduct after a city police probe of the Arlington Boulevard facility.

Why the Charges Were Dropped

The charges were dropped because authorities lost contact with one of the victims, who moved out of state, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elizabeth Killeen.

“Without both victims, there isn’t corroboration in the case, and we wouldn’t go forward with either one,” Killeen said in court Wednesday.

Authorities can bring the charges back before a grand jury later, if they so choose, Killeen said.

During the brief hearing, defense lawyer David Heilberg asked the judge to permanently dismiss the charges instead of dropping them, saying his client has been through enough.

“I suggest my client had never been accused or convicted of anything,” he said.

Comments of the Accused

Afterward, Vaughan denied the charges and said they have kept him from working as a prison guard or security specialist with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, jobs he said he’d previously had.

“I was innocent before and I’m innocent this time,” Vaughan said after court.

Past Runins with the Court

In March, a jury deadlocked over whether he had abused the two girls. One testified that she had consensual sex with Vaughan when she was 16 and 17. The other said he touched her inappropriately when she was 14.

Heilberg said in the March trial that the girls were untrustworthy, and said one had previously filed a false report of sexual abuse against her stepfather.

Is This the Only Case?

Killeen, however, said in court Wednesday that authorities have information that Vaughan may be involved in other cases. She said future charges against Vaughan are possible and pointed out that he was banned from the female wing at Whisper Ridge for more than six months before the date of the alleged abuse.

Vaughan and four other former Whisper Ridge employees were indicted in August 2006 after the six-month police investigation.

Other Big Problems at Whisper Ridge

Bianca Johnson, the former director of operations at the facility, pleaded guilty this summer to a charge of attempted carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old patient. The charge stemmed from a sexually graphic letter authorities said she wrote the boy.

Johnson was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to undergo a mental-health evaluation.

Melissa Pohl Sergeant, a former Whisper Ridge administrator, was charged with failing to report suspicions of child abuse in connection with Johnson’s case. She was acquitted in June.

Michael Prosise, another former mental health specialist charged with abuse, has not yet been tried. A fifth former employee, Jessica Minter, is accused of contributing to child delinquency, but has not been arrested because she lives out of state.

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