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Man pleads guilty but mentally ill in assault

June 30, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg man charged in the stabbing of another man last year pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to aggravated assault.

Robert N. Rapp, 48, of 173 S. Main St., entered the rarely used plea last Wednesday in Franklin County Court. He had been charged with attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault in the June 17, 1997, assault at the Washington House, 204 Lincoln Way East, according to court records.

The borough police's affidavit of probable cause alleges that Rapp went into the restroom of the tavern shortly after midnight and attacked Shawn Murray, of 129 S. Second St., Chambersburg, with a knife. Murray, who was 29 at the time, was stabbed several times in the chest and abdomen, the affidavit alleges.

Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said Rapp's plea "recognizes that the person, while mentally ill at the time of the offense, is legally sane and is responsible for their criminal actions."

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Nelson said the court will have to determine whether Rapp's mental illness affects his ability to control himself or conform to incarceration. That could affect where he is incarcerated and the types of treatment or programs in which he must participate.

Rapp faces up to 20 years in prison. Judge John Walker scheduled him for sentencing on July 22.

The 1982 law allowing guilty but mentally ill convictions was passed the year after John W. Hinckley's attempted assasination of then-President Ronald Reagan. A Washington, D.C., jury found Hinckley innocent by reason of insanity.

Nelson said the law allows juries to find a mentally ill person guilty, but not legally insane.

In another case, James Samuel McCrea, 20, of Chambersburg, was given a two-to-12-month sentence for carrying a dangerous weapon into the courthouse.

McCrea pleaded guilty to bringing a collapsible 26-inch baton on April 23 to the third floor of the courthouse, where it was spotted by a deputy sheriff, according to court records.

The weapon is similar to the one used to attack Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan several years ago. Walker asked that the baton be brought to the courtroom during the sentencing.

"I should keep this up here in case any defendants try to scale the walls," Walker said from behind the bench.

"We don't think you intended to harm anyone," Walker told McCrea. He made his sentence concurrent with one McCrea is serving on a drug conviction.

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