Jessie Lee Herald, 27, agreed to undergo a vasectomy when he pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit-and-run driving, and driving on a suspended license. Why, you ask, is a vasectomy part of child endangerment/hit-and-run accident charge?
Ilona L. White, the assistant attorney with Virginia Commonwealth, explained that she offered the admittedly unusual provision to Herald because of concerns about the number of children the Edinburg, Va. resident had fathered with different women. The vasectomy option “was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the Commonwealth's interest for that to be part of the plea agreement," White told NvDaily.com.
Northern Virginia is not alone in offering vasectomies to men facing sentencing. In 2004, the Associated Press reported that D. Michael "Mickey" Foellger, a family court judge in Kentucky, dangled a similar option before men who had multiple children and were tens of thousands of dollars behind on their child support: Go to jail or get a vasectomy. "If these children are in poverty because these guys are not paying their child support, I have no qualms about it,” Foellger told the AP. “I don't think these men deserve to have any more children." For him, the option to have vasectomy conveys his message with simplicity: having children is a responsibility.
When questioned about his unusual edict, Foellger explained it is legal because a judge has wide latitude in instances where men are in contempt for not paying child support, in part, because child-support cases are civil, not criminal. He also maintained that his "vasectomy or jail" option is only offered to those men who are more than $10,000 behind on their child support payments and who have had four or more children with three or more women. Unlike sterilization, he stated, a vasectomy is a simple, reversible procedure. "Most of the men have shown some relief when they are offered something they should have thought of themselves," Foellger told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
With the current case in Virginia, Herald's sentencing resulted from a car crash on Dec. 23, when police say his 2007 Toyota, in which a 3-year-old boy rode as a passenger, ran off the road, hit an embankment, and rolled over. Taking the boy, Herald fled the scene on foot and returned the boy to his home, authorities claimed. Herald once again fled just before the state police arrived and found the boy, after which they delivered him to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. Herald turned himself in at the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office about a week later.
Along with a vasectomy, Herald faces a sentence of one year and eight months in prison, three years of supervised probation, and two years of unsupervised probation. His agreement calls for him to undergo the vasectomy within a year of his release from prison and also requires that he not reverse the vasectomy while on probation.
"It's a condition of his probation, and I'm sure he'll have to provide documentation to his probation officer," White told NvDaily.com.