A jury has decided convicted child molester William Ploof is a sexually violent predator who’s likely to strike again if not kept behind bars for further treatment. The jury of four men and eight women returned their verdict at about 2:30 this afternoon after deliberating about 6½ hours.
The verdict means Ploof, despite having finished his 10-year criminal sentence for sexually assaulting a boy twice in the 1990s, will remain incarcerated at the state prison’s Secure Psychiatric Unit for up to five years for sex offender treatment.
He is the first person to be convicted under the state’s new sexual predator law since it took effect in 2007. In addition to his sexual assault that landed him in prison, Ploof has claimed 20 to 50 other sexual assault victims, some of them children, according to prison records.
Prosecutor Michael Valentine of the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office has said he will ask Judge Gillian Abramson to sentence Ploof for the full five years. Ploof’s public defenders, Lisa Wolford and Anthony Sculimbrene, indicated this week they’ll ask for something less.
The law allows Ploof, 49, to appeal the jury’s verdict.
To keep Ploof behind bars, jurors had to conclude three things about Ploof: He suffers from pedophilia, the pedophilia makes him unable to control his urges and he’s likely to commit more acts of sexual violence.
The other two requirements of the law – that Ploof has been previously convicted of a sexually violent offense and that he doesn’t have a mental disorder that qualifies him for commitment to the state hospital – were not in dispute at trial. Ploof’s qualifying offense was his sexual assault on a young boy in 1993 and 1997. He performed oral sex on the boy both times, first underwater while swimming and the second time while the boy was asleep, according to court records.
During four days of trial, Valentine and prosecutor Ross McLeod argued that Ploof is a pedophile who can’t control his urges and is therefore likely to commit more acts of sexual violence.
They relied on Ploof’s sexual assault history, which he himself estimated included 20 to 50 adult and child victims, and his inability to complete sex offender treatment while in prison. Ploof quit the first time and was kicked out the second time for grabbing the crotch of another inmate.
The state also called as a witness psychologist Dr. Eric Mart, who evaluated Ploof and concluded he remains dangerous and is 30 to 48 percent likely to reoffend given his score on a recidivism test.
Ploofs own psychologist agreed with his score on the recidivism test
Ploof’s public defenders countered that with their own psychologist, Dr. Luis Rosell, who said Ploof has recovered from his pedophilia because he now says he’s attracted to teenage boys – not children. Rosell said Ploof has learned to avoid his high-risk behaviors like isolation and rationalization, and to stop himself from acting out if he does get a deviant urge.
In her closing yesterday, Wolford also challenged the validity and accuracy of the recidivism test Mart used and said the state relied too heavily on Ploof’s past and unfairly discredited the partial treatment he did get in prison.