Like the case of Brian Banks, Edgar Coker, Jr.'s story is the one of exoneration after the fact. Often when considering plea deals, the only real element that is focused on is the number of years to be served in prison. The idea of prison is so horrible to most people that they don't think too much of what life on probation and/or a sex offender's list will be like. Brian Banks and Edgar Coker know this life all too well, and had to fight hard to rid themselves of the chains that accompany ex-convicts, particularly sex offenders.
In 2007, Edgar Coker was a regular 15 year old resident of Mineral, Virginia. Interested in basketball and little else, he was a good student with no record and a stranger to trouble with the law. But in early June he went to a girl's house from the neighborhood, where the two began to do what teenage kids often do when parents are gone. The girl's mother arrived home a short time later to find Edgar leaving the home and her daughter pulling up her pants when she got to her room. She told her mother Edgar had raped her.
Three days later, Edgar Coker, Jr. was charged with Rape, Abduction and Breaking & Entering.
An Incredibly Speedy Trial
To avoid being prosecuted as an adult and thus face a sentence in adult prison, Edgar followed his attorney's advice and pled guilty to rape and breaking and entering. Before accepting the plea, when Edgar's mother told his defense attorney that her other son had been there too and could corroborate Edgar's version, she was asked if she wanted both her sons to go to jail. On September 19, 2007, after presenting no witnesses on Coker's behalf, he was ordered to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his lifetime.
Something that never came up in this swift process was the history of the accuser. She was borderline mentally retarded and had a history of launching false accusations. Her teachers knew it, her counselors knew it - But it never came out at trial. As a result, Edgar was sent to Hanover County to serve an indeterminate amount of time in a Department of Justice Juvenile facility. It should be noted that Coker himself is classified as "borderline range of functioning" which comes down to an inability to properly interpret nuanced situations, leaving him vulnerable in social situations.
Life on the Registry
Even after being released from the juvenile facility, it was incredibly hard to adjust to life on the sex offender registry. Ultimately the family quit going anywhere out of frustration of the restrictions placed on Edgar and out of fear of breaking one of the loosely defined restrictions, anything that might endanger Edgar's freedom. He wasn't allowed to run errands by himself, sleep over at friend's houses or many other things out of fear of false accusations. This didn't affect just Edgar, his brothers were subject to the same treatment. But given what had happened already, it wasn't necessarily crazy to look at these measures as necessary to protect your boys.
When it comes to life after the registry, sadly, not much changes. Many jobs use databases that don't have the most up to date information regarding who is and is not on the registry. Some people have even committed suicide AFTER being removed from the list, simply because of a lot of the hardships of removing that stigma from one's name and life. Articles such as this one illustrate how broken our state's sex offender registry has become. When these are the results, it is no longer working for the protection of our children and families. This situation needs to be rectified as soon as possible to avoid further heartbreak to those undeserving of it.
Vacating the Verdict and Leaving the Registry
What turned things around for Edgar, legally speaking, is that about two months after Edgar was arrested and charged, the alleged victim in the case told her mother the truth about what happened. She had simply made up the story to avoid getting in trouble with her mother. That was in November 2007. Not until February 10, 2014 was the verdict finally and justly vacated and Edgar's name ordered off the sex offender registry. During this entire time Edgar and his family, the girl in question, and the girl's mother had all been working diligently to clear Edgar's name.
It is also important to bear in mind that Edgar's legal team was getting virtually nowhere on their own in the Stafford County courts. Once the Virginia Supreme Court overturned Judge Sharp's ruling however, a Fairfax Circuit judge had to be appointed presiding judge in the case as ALL STAFFORD CIRCUIT JUDGES HAD RECUSED THEMSELVES. It was then that things really turned in Edgar's favor, as the timeline at bottom illustrates.
Edgar Coker and his family have been through a hellish ordeal. Its a perfect example of how the courts work against us when there is no logical reason for it. This situation should have been rectified two months after it began, when the girl admitted she had lied. That should have been the end of the story. But statutes and red tape had come in to play, and since she had not made this disclosure within Virginia's '21 Days', it was ruled that it had no bearing. Too bad, Edgar, see you when you get out. It simply shouldn't have happened that way, and there's no earthly reason to excuse why it did. The courts and laws are put there for a reason, and they seem to often work against that reason. It's to help guide us through civilization, but common sense and logic should reign over these laws that we have made up. What Edgar endured should never happen to anyone else, and we all hope to God that it doesn't.
JUNE 4, 2007—Encounter between girl, 14, and Edgar Coker, 15, at her Aquia Harbour home.
Sources and Links
Edgar Coker's name to be taken off VA sex offender list years after false accusation
VA's High Court by Innocent UVA Law Clinic Client
VA Family still suffers effects of guilty plea to rape that never happened
It's Time to Reduce, Reconstruct, Reclassify, Rethink and Reform the VA Sex Offender Registry
Candy Hatcher: Flaws in the State's Sex Offender Registry. HB523 and Edgar Coker Jr.
Life Forever Changed by Sex Offender List
Article written by Mike Palmer
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