Vasectomy plea deal draws attention from national media

By Joe Beck

WOODSTOCK — The case of an Edinburg man who agreed to undergo a vasectomy as a condition of probation has kept some people in the Shenandoah County court system answering inquiries from a variety of media outlets.

Much of the controversy appeared to have died down Friday, but not before the story of Jesse Herald’s plea agreement had become the subject of commentary on a cable television talk show, numerous Internet magazines and blog, and an Associated Press wire story.

Herald agreed to an active prison sentence of one year and eight months in exchange for pleading guilty in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to hit and run driving, child endangerment and driving on a suspended license.

But it was Herald’s acceptance of a provision in the plea agreement that he undergo a vasectomy within a year after his prison term expires that drew all the attention to Herald, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Ilona White and defense attorney Charles Ramsey.

White has estimated that Herald has had seven or eight children with different women, a number cited as her reason for seeking the vasectomy provision in the plea agreement.

White and Ramsey continued to defend the decision, which some commentators said resurrected unsettling memories of the state’s history of forcing some inmates in mental institutions to undergo sterilization.

Ramsey said he took phone calls from a representative of the Nancy Grace cable television talk show, the Washington Post and the Associated Press about the case. The Huffington Post website also asked him to appear on a Web cam panel, but he turned down the invitation.

Ramsey said he stood by the plea agreement, which was offered by White and accepted voluntarily by his client.

“If the commonwealth’s attorney comes to me with a plea agreement offer, it’s my ethical obligation to pass that on to my client,” Ramsey said. “I could actually get in trouble if I didn’t do that.

“If my client chooses to accept the plea agreement offer, it’s very clearly my ethical obligation to carry that out.”

White also said the Associated Press and Nancy Grace called her office. White declined to appear on the TV show but agreed to be interviewed by the wire service.

“We just got several calls from various news outlets,” White said.

She declined further comment.

A clerk at the Shenandoah County Circuit Court office, who declined to give her name, said she also fielded two or three phone calls from media about the Herald case earlier in the week.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

Editor’s note: Daily reporter Joe Beck was interviewed by Nancy Grace. View the interview at