THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
                 Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: TUESDAY, June 21, 1994                    TAG: 9406210404 
SECTION: LOCAL                     PAGE: B3    EDITION: FINAL  
DATELINE: 940621                                 LENGTH: NORFOLK 


{LEAD} George Petersen died last year, but his legal appeals live on in a strange post-mortem to a case marked by the bizarre.

Two years ago, Petersen pleaded guilty to performing oral sodomy on a man whom he had hypnotized under the guise to help him stop smoking. Petersen was convicted of forcible sodomy and sentenced to five years in prison.

{REST} Shortly afterward, Petersen claimed he was railroaded by his lawyer into pleading guilty. That bought him a day before the state Court of Appeals on Monday.

But last August, he died of AIDS in prison.

If he had lived, Petersen would have gotten a chance to tell the court that he didn't do anything wrong, his lawyer, Andrew Wiggin, said.

But Petersen's victim is outraged that he is being forced to live through the entire ordeal again.

``It's not right, it's not fair to the victim,'' said Petersen's victim minutes after the court hearing. The man asked that his identity not be disclosed.

``I got over this and now it is back again. . . I testified (in the original trial). I did my job and what I had to do for the good of general public. I'm really p----- because the guy is dead.''

That's not the point, says Wiggin.

``Regardless of whether he died, my job is to represent my client's best interest,'' Wiggin said.

No testimony about the case was presented to the three judges, who will eventually decide whether Petersen will spend eternity labeled guilty or innocent. Assistant Attorney General Leah Darron, who is representing the commonwealth, wants the conviction to remain on the record.

Wiggin wants the conviction erased, at the very least. At most, he wants the judges to rule that Virginia Beach Circuit Judge John K. Moore made an error by not letting Petersen withdraw his original guilty plea on Jan. 29, 1992.

``This is procedural,'' Wiggin said. And that has Petersen's victim upset the most.

``The explanation that this is a matter of law'' galls him, the victim said. ``The line has got to be drawn somewhere! There is only one person with one thing to lose here, and that's me.''

The victim said he is starting to feel the same angst and nervousness he felt when he had to testify in the trial that convicted Petersen. Terrifying dreams of Petersen are starting to haunt him again. Plus, he said, he is angry at the commonwealth because taxpayer money is being used to defend a dead man who had already been convicted. Wiggin is a public defender, lawyers provided for free to clients who can't afford to hire one.

``Does this state have any compassion? It makes you wonder,'' he said.

Ever since he found out Petersen died of AIDS, the victim said he has been taking HIV tests to see if he got the virus. So far, he says, the tests have been negative.

``It's scary,'' he said, recounting the March 19, 1991, incident that happened at the Wesselton Health Foundation in Virginia Beach. ``There were three hours of my life and I don't know what happened. . . But now I have since learned that it does no good to think about the possibilities.''

But for now, Wiggin said he will wait the outcome of the judges decision. If they rule against him, he said he will decide then whether to continue to appeal.


by CNB