Plum pleads guilty in two sexual assault cases

Michael Bryan Plum of Charlottesville pleaded guilty yesterday to eight separate charges relating to two sexual assaults that occurred over two years apart.

Plum, 25, was indicted in Charlottesville Circuit Court in April on four felony charges in connection to the October 1998 rape of a female University student that occurred beneath Beta Bridge. He also was indicted on six counts relating to a sexual assault which occurred near Tonsler Park in February.

According to Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Ron Hubber, Plum plead guilty to counts of rape, abduction and forcible sodomy for the offense under Beta Bridge. In the Tonsler Park case, he plead guilty to two counts of forcible sodomy, malicious wounding, abduction and penetration with an inanimate object.

Seven of the eight charges could carry life sentences. The count of malicious wounding carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

In light of the violent nature of both assaults "the Commonwealth will anticipate asking for a life sentence," Hubber said.

Plum is slated to appear before the Charlottesville Circuit Court on Feb. 25 for sentencing on the eight charges.

He was arrested in February 2001 in connection with the Tonsler Park assault. While investigating that assault, Charlottesville Police officials said they noticed several similarities between the February attack and the 1998 attack under Beta Bridge.

The similarities of the attack prompted police to send Plum's DNA profile to the Virginia Division of Forensic Science where investigators matched Plum's DNA to samples recovered in the 1998 assault.

He subsequently was charged with both attacks.

Beta Bridge is located on Rugby Road where a large portion of University students reside. Until after the rape when a fence was extended around the railroad tracks under the bridge, students frequently used the area as a shortcut to Lambeth Fields apartments. Tonsler Park is located near the corner of Elliott and Fifth streets extended.

According to Aaron Laushway, assistant dean of students for the office of fraternity and sorority life, University students should be wary of safety issues around Grounds.

"When I see our young women students jogging alone, it always makes me nervous," Laushway said.

"Generally, we live in a very safe community," Laushway said. But "if there is one thing Sept. 11 taught us, you can't ever take anything for granted"

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