W&M prof charged with computer harrasment, ‘berating’ officials found competent to stand trial

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David Dessler (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
David Dessler (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A William & Mary government professor has been cleared by mental health professionals to stand trial for allegedly sending harassing emails to college officials and prosecutors.

William & Mary Police believe David Dessler, 62, sent “dozens” of emails using “vulgar and obscene language” to government department chair John McGlennon, university counsel Deborah Love, Williamsburg prosecutor Cathy Black and several other college officials.

This is the second harassment by computer case against Dessler since February 2016.

In a Tuesday appearance in the Williamsburg-James City General District Court, Dessler’s attorney, Brenton Bohannon, said he has been cleared and is competent to stand trial. The trial is scheduled for May 25 at 1 p.m. in the general district court.

Dessler is still a tenured professor at William & Mary, but his status is listed as “inactive,” college spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan said Monday. Dessler has been on extended medical leave, resulting in his inactive status.

In 2012, the Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com rated Dessler one of the top 300 professors in the country. According to his biography on the college’s website, Dessler has been working at William & Mary since 1984. As a professor of government, Dessler’s academic interests include international politics and theory. His research focuses on “the philosophy of social science as it applies to international relations theory and political methodology,” the biography reads.

Dessler was arrested twice on Feb. 28, 2016 and March 18, 2016 for allegedly sending threatening emails to McGlennon, who also serves on the James City County Board of Supervisors.

According to two criminal complaints dated Feb. 26 and March 18, 2016, Dessler was on medical leave from William & Mary and was instructed not to email college officials starting in October 2015.

The emails included “grievances with the college, frustration with college policies and procedures and threatens that someone will ‘show up in Williamsburg and take [McGlennon] apart,’” according to one criminal complaint.

Both charges were dropped in December, but Dessler was arrested again Jan. 13 and charged with two new harassment by computer charges, court documents show.

In a Jan. 12 email to McGlennon, Dessler allegedly wrote “F—K YOU. If you don’t like it how about this: delete the email. What kind of moron are you,” a criminal complaint states.

Police say Dessler sent dozens of emails “berating college officials,” including university counsel Deborah Love and Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Cathy Black.

Dessler was granted bond on Feb. 15 after appealing a bond denial to the circuit court.

According to an order from Judge Charles Maxfield, Dessler is required to have no contact with McGlennon, Love, or the Commonwealth’s Attorney. He was also ordered to cooperate with a mental health evaluation and psychiatrist Louis Dutchin, in Richmond.

While awaiting trial, he is also not allowed on William & Mary property or permitted to use a computer or cell phone.

In a letter to the judge, P. Geoffrey Feiss, provost emeritus at William & Mary, described Dessler as “a gentle and kind man, incapable of any physical harm to another human being.”

The letter continued: “It is this latter characteristic, known by all his friends, that makes this unconscionable incarceration for presumed mental illness deeply troubling, if not medieval in its ruthless imposition.”

Sarah Fearing may be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.