FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:March 11, 2013
Contact: Heather F. WilliamsonCommonwealth’s Attorney’s Office20 East Market StreetLeesburg, VA 20176-2809(703) 777-0242
VIOLENT REPEAT SEXUAL OFFENDERTO SPEND REMAINING YEARS IN PRISON
JURY AFFIXES TWO LIFE SENTENCES, PLUS 75 YEARS
LEESBURG, Virginia – March 8, 2013. Moses Ulysses Harris, 52, was found guilty of ten felony offenses including two counts of rape, two counts of carnal knowledge, five counts of indecent liberties with a child by custodian, and one count of manufacturing child pornography. Senior Assistant Gigi Lawless and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Angela Vernail presented evidence over the course of the three-day jury trial, which concluded Friday with the jury recommending that Harris serve two life sentences plus 75 years in the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Beginning in the summer of 2007, Harris, a previously convicted sex offender worked his way into the lives a local family. He eventually moved into their home and preyed on one of the young children living there and repeated sexual abuse on that child took place for the next five years.
“While mandatory life sentences are required by statute for repeat offenders in cases such as this, I have little doubt that the jury needed the statutory directive,” stated Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman. “Citizens have a heightened fear of child predators due to their unpredictable behavior and the innocence of the victims they seek. All families should take reasonable steps to become aware of where these offenders live and work in their community.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Angela Vernail told the jury that this was a case about “hiding and secrets.” The secrets a little girl was forced to keep and how a sexual predator was hiding in the midst of our community while being sought by Virginia State Police for failing to register as a violent sex offender.
After the jury returned a guilty verdict, Vernail presented evidence of Harris’ prior criminal history which included a felony conviction for indecent liberties with a child in 2002, and two prior misdemeanor convictions for failing to register as a sex offender in 2008. Vernail then asked the twelve jurors to sentence Harris to the maximum time allowable by law, urging them to use their voices to speak for the community, and to take away any possibility of him being released from prison again.
In a previous trial, the victim’s mother was also convicted by a jury of felony child cruelty for knowingly allowing her child to reside with and be abused by a convicted sex offender.
A final sentencing hearing will be conducted on June 13, 2013 before the Hon. Burke F. McCahill who presided over the trial. Under Virginia law a judge may reduce a jury’s recommendation by providing written reasons therefore, but may not increase a jury’s recommendation. The two life terms plus 45 years of the 75 year sentence imposed is a mandatory minimum sentence as directed under the Virginia Code, and therefore cannot be reduced in whole or in part.