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Man sentenced to 30-75 years for sex assault of stepdaughter

February 26, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Middleway, W.Va., man was sentenced Wednesday to 30 to 75 years in prison for repeated sexual assault of his 14-year-old stepdaughter, once in front of her 12-year-old sister.

The man continued to protest his innocence and also argued that he should not have been found competent to stand trial.

"I didn't do nothing to these girls," the man said.

The man's name is not being published to protect the girl's identity.

Berkeley County Circuit Judge David Sanders ordered that the 47-year-old man not be eligible for parole for at least 30 years.

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Sanders was the judge in Jefferson County when the man was found guilty on Dec. 3, 1996, by a Jefferson County jury. Sanders was transferred at the beginning of this year to the Berkeley County bench.

At the trial, the girl testified that she had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather who beat her and then her younger sister when she came to her aid. The girl said the man then assaulted her and told her not to tell anyone or she and her mother would be beaten.

She was sexually assaulted three other times, but eventually went to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department with her mother to report the assaults.

Sanders said the man represents a danger to society.

"He's a person who is unlikely to reform himself or make any change in his method of dealing with the world," the judge said. "I think there's a real concern for public safety. The fires burn brightly in (him) at this time and will probably continue to burn brightly for some time."

Jefferson County Assistant Prosecutor J. Michael Cassell argued for consecutive sentences, saying the man represents a high level of "violence and danger" to society.

Cassell said that several years ago the man was arrested for tying up another man with an extension cord and beating the bound man repeatedly.

In that case, he was found not mentally competent to stand trial and the charges were dismissed, Cassell said.

During a brief recess before sentencing, the man glared at the prosecutor and then snarled that he should not have brought up the information about the earlier assault case. He told Cassell that the man deserved the beating he received.

The man said he plans to appeal the verdict and sentence.

The man told the judge Wednesday he does not think he was competent to stand trial in December, though a state expert ruled he was.

"When I went to court I didn't understand what was going on," he told the judge.

Defense attorney Deborah Lawson told the judge that the man had asked to fire her and another public defender, but Sanders asked her to remain the man's counsel for now since there is a time limit for an appeal.

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