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Nation in brief: Man sentenced after rape apology

A man who sexually assaulted a University of Virginia student in 1984 and apologized to her two decades later as part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program was sentenced to 18 months in prison Thursday.

William Beebe, 42, pleaded guilty in November to one count of aggravated sexual battery for his attack on Liz Seccuro.

Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire ordered a 10-year prison sentence with all but 18 months suspended, as long as Beebe performs 500 hours of community service related to issues of sexual assault and alcohol abuse on college campuses. Prosecutors had recommended two years.

The case was revived in 2005 after Beebe wrote Seccuro a letter of apology in an attempt to make amends for the assault as part of AA’s recovery program. The program’s ninth step calls on alcoholics to make amends to those they have harmed – unless doing so would cause further injury. In an exchange of e-mails that ensued, Beebe wrote: “I want to make clear that I’m not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did.”

Seccuro, 40, of Greenwich, Conn., was given a drink at a party that made her feel strange, and she later passed out, leaving her memory hazy. She said she vividly recalls being attacked by Beebe, but always had a vague impression she’d been assaulted by additional members of the fraternity.


Corps says pumps will be repaired

The head of the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that excessive vibration problems with defective pumps at three major drainage canals in New Orleans will be fixed within seven weeks, before the 2007 hurricane season opens.

The Associated Press, citing an internal memo, reported Tuesday that the corps went ahead with installation of the 34 pumps last year in a rush to fix the city’s flood defenses before the 2006 hurricane season despite warnings from one of its experts that the machinery was defective and likely to fail in a storm.

Because of the pumps’ size, there was no protocol for testing them in the factory, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy and water development subcommittee. “We chose to accept a calculated risk with something that would have an effect at the beginning of the hurricane season,” he said.