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Former Hagerstown man sentenced to 20 years for first-degree assault

Klaus Vonmahr had been extradited to U.S. from Czech Republic to face charges

August 02, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Klaus Vonmahr
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — A former Hagerstown man who was extradited from the Czech Republic earlier this year on rape charges apologized to his victim Tuesday before he was sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court to serve 20 years in prison on a lesser charge.

Klaus Werner Vonmahr, 51, was charged with raping and assaulting the woman in a Hagerstown home in 2000. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree assault in connection with the case.

“I am truly sorry for causing you pain,” Vonmahr said to his victim. “It was a moment of pain for me, and I regret it to this day.”

Vonmahr, a German national, was arrested in the Czech Republic on Oct. 22, 2010, after applying for a driver's license.

He was returned to Washington County in March to face charges of first- and second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, first-degree assault, three counts of second-degree assault and two counts of false imprisonment. The other charges were dropped in exchange for his plea to first-degree assault.

Before Judge Daniel P. Dwyer imposed the sentence, defense attorney David Harbin told the court that Vonmahr and the victim had a romantic history. Harbin said Vonmahr snapped on the night of the assault after tolerating several years of physical and verbal abuse from the victim.

“It’s not an excuse,” Harbin said. “It’s an explanation of what he had to put up with .... Things were out of control, and he just lost his mind on this night.”

Harbin produced three character witnesses who testified on Vonmahr’s behalf, saying, among other things, that he was kind and generous.

“I know he had to have been provoked and provoked to a breaking point,” witness Dan Sheedy said.

Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael said Vonmahr choked and beat the victim “beyond recognition.”

Because Vonmahr would be eligible for parole after serving half of his prison term, Michael asked Dwyer to impose the maximum 25-year sentence to ensure justice was served.

Michael said Vonmahr, who fled to Europe after committing the crime,  enjoyed 10 years of freedom until he was captured by authorities in the Czech Republic.

“It has been 10 years of agony for the victim,” Michael said.

Dwyer said he didn’t impose the maximum sentence because Vonmahr didn’t have an extensive criminal record.

He said the beating wasn’t justified, even though Vonmahr might have been provoked.

“This appears to be something along the lines of a repeated pummeling,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer said he also took into account Vonmahr’s use of a belt and necktie to restrain the victim during the incident.

Dwyer said that Vonmahr won’t be subject to probation because he is to be deported upon his release from prison.

Michael said earlier this month that the victim had been involved in a relationship with Vonmahr, separated from him because of domestic violence and then resumed the relationship in September 2000.

On Nov. 29, 2000, the woman rejected Vonmahr's sexual advances, and he pinned her down, demanding that she tell him of any relationships she had during their separation, Michael said.

Vonmahr beat and choked the woman and told her he was going to have sex with her, Michael said. The woman was afraid to resist because she feared for her life.

The woman was later bound with duct tape, a belt and a necktie, and Vonmahr forced several prescription pills into her mouth when she tried to get loose, Michael said. The woman escaped, left the house and waved down a police officer.

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