By ESTER SALGUERO
William Somers, former sergeant on the University of Mary Washington’s police force and Lexi Coleman, the victim of an alleged sexual assault reported in December, were both present at the Fredericksburg General District preliminary hearing on Thursday Jan. 14. Judge John Stevens assessed that the case should be sent to circuit court, according to The Free-Lance Star.
In the General District courtroom Coleman, a 24 year-old woman who recently returned to Fredericksburg in April after enduring several months of recovery to undergo a gender conversion, spoke her testimony. Coleman disclosed that she had informally known Somers over the course of about three years.
The alleged assault took place at the Anderson Center on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 in the afternoon, according to CBS News. Coleman’s testimony described the surroundings as an area overlooking the Ron Rosner Arena basketball court. The Free-Lance Star also stated that Coleman claimed to have had exchanged a flirtatious conversation over text and confessed to having sent intimate pictures earlier the same day.
Coleman also asserted that she “did not want to have sex with Somers,” according to The Free-Lance Star. During Coleman’s testimony, she stated how she left to the hospital later in the day on Dec. 12 and received a sexual assault forensic examination in which the results proved to be consistent.
Somers was arrested on Dec. 16, 2015 by the Virginia State Police and was charged with two felony counts of forcible sodomy. He was hired in 2011 by the University and was a part of UMW’s police force for about four years. Michael Hall, Chief of Police at UMW, spoke about how he knew ‘Bobby,’ referring to Somers, through his involvement with the community Little League.
Along with Somers’ engagement in the community’s Little League, he also was in charge of the Rape Aggression Defense program at UMW until he resigned from the department on Dec. 14 and turned himself in on the charges. After the department fired Somers, officer Tegan Lewis replaced Somers and is now in charge of the Rape Aggression Defense program.
Chief Hall has held his status as Chief of Police for about a year. He spoke of the embarrassment and hurt that the department has been “shouldering” through this process. “When that trust is fractured it’s catastrophic for the rest of the department because we shoulder that hurt,” Hall said.
Despite the pain that Hall has expressed along with others in the department, he still remains compassionate toward Somers. In an interview at the Brent Station accompanied by Captain Sandor, Hall pointed how it is important for him to remain cautious when judging others by the actions they have committed because he chooses to dwell on what a person does after the fact instead of what has already transpired.
Hall acknowledged that he cannot change what has happened but was assertive in stating that the department does not tolerate these actions.
“We don’t condone that type of activity by [any] means,” Hall said.
Students have expressed two very different attitudes with their concerns about the police force and the campus. Victoria Anderson, a junior history major, was unsure about the hiring process in which the officers must undergo.
“It makes me wonder about the people UMW hires,” Anderson said. However, another student stated that she confided in the police department to make the necessary improvements she felt might increase safety on campus.
“I’m disappointed to hear that this event happened but I feel that campus police will adjust their hiring process,” Megan McLaughlin, a junior biology major, stated.
Hall made it known that he would make improvements if the department finds areas where it should be necessary. He also spoke of the urgency that the department felt to move forward from this situation and how to learn to work with the community during this process by being as transparent as is legally possible.
The department was notified about the case immediately and the UMW police department has been cooperating with Virginia State Police to expose the incident in order to move on. Hall expressed his concerns about the victim in hopes that she may find stability through this process. The case is now on its way to the grand jury to determine the indictment.