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Man sentenced in assault of 11-year-old girl

April 12, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN

A man who punched an 11-year-old girl, knocked her unconscious and left her in the roadway after an Oct. 17, 2006, traffic accident will spend two years in prison, a Washington County Circuit judge ruled Thursday.

Steven Lee Gossard, 23, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and received two five-year sentences, with all but two years suspended, to run concurrent. He also will serve two years of supervised probation.

The maximum penalty for conviction on the charges would have been 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, said Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell, who called the assault "absolutely vicious."

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Gossard was in a vehicle driven by Alisha Michelle Nicewarner when she pulled into the path of a second vehicle as she was pulling from a parking spot in front of Sunset Tavern on U.S. 40, Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Flores said in court Thursday.

Nicewarner confronted the driver of the second vehicle, Cory May Swartz, Flores said. Gossard then got involved, and punched Swartz in the head, knocking her to the ground, Flores said.

Swartz's 11-year-old daughter tried to help her mother, and Nicewarner shoved the girl, Flores said. Gossard then punched the girl and left her lying unconscious in the middle of the roadway, Flores said. He also punched a 15-year-old girl, Flores said.

Nicewarner and Gossard did not try to help either of their victims, Flores said.

Nicewarner was arrested at the scene, but Gossard ran into the woods and wasn't found for a month, Flores said.

Swartz suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and the girls had nightmares as a result of the assaults, Flores said.

Nicewarner's attorney, John Salvatore, said that his client did not initiate the physical part of the altercation. Nicewarner tearfully apologized to the court before she was sentenced.

Nicewarner pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and driving while intoxicated. She was sentenced by McDowell to three years in prison with all but four months suspended for the assault conviction and 60 days in jail for the DWI charge, to run concurrent with time served on the assault charge.

Nicewarner, who is pregnant and due in July, will be allowed to serve the four months on home detention, McDowell said. She also will serve a year of supervised probation.

The state dismissed charges of first-degree assault, disorderly conduct and two counts of reckless endangerment in return for Gossard's guilty plea, Flores said.

Gossard said he regrets his action every day.

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