HAGERSTOWN — A Washington County Circuit judge Thursday sentenced a West Virginia man to 15 years in prison after he entered an Alford plea on charges of raping a teen-ager five years ago.
Richard Ernest Brightwell, 32, of 25 Pilgrim St., Inwood, W.Va., entered Alford pleas to first-degree assault and second-degree rape before Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr.
In exchange for the pleas, prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges, including four counts of first-degree rape, three counts of second-degree rape, three counts of false imprisonment, two counts of kidnapping a child under 16 and three handgun charges.
Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.
Long sentenced Brightwell to 25 years in prison on the assault charge, suspending 10 years. Brightwell will have to serve a minimum of half the 15-year sentence before he is eligible for parole because it was a crime of violence, Long said.
“This will be something she carriers for the rest of her life,” Long said of the victim, who was present but did not address the court.
On Nov. 29, 2010, Hagerstown police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office began investigating allegations by a woman that she had been raped several times by Brightwell between Oct. 31 and late December 2006, according to the charging documents. The woman was 15 years old when the incidents occurred, the documents said.
The first incident occurred on Halloween 2006 when Brightwell gave the girl a ride home from his former residence on East Avenue in Hagerstown, the documents said. Instead, he drove her out of town to a farm, pulled a gun and raped her, the documents said.
The woman told police Brightwell raped her again in his basement on Thanksgiving; in an abandoned house prior to Christmas; and in a vehicle in a parking lot, the documents said.
Brightwell also faces a pending second-degree sexual assault case involving a teenage girl in Berkeley County, W.Va., as well as a violation of probation on a theft conviction in Frederick County, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said after the plea and sentencing.