Three Men Sentenced to 15 Years for Assault on Retarded Girl
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Three former high school football teammates were sentenced Friday to up to 15 years in youth detention for raping a mentally retarded teen-ager.
A fourth defendant was sentenced to probation and community service.
They were convicted as adults, but Superior Court Judge R. Benjamin Cohen cited their ages and the likelihood that they could be rehabilitated in sentencing three of them to youth detention.
Their 15-year sentence as young adult offenders - under age 26 with no prior record - normally carries a four-year minimum, but the sentence to a youth facility means the three could be released within 22 months if deemed rehabilitated.
″The defendants are very young, they are not hardened criminals,″ Cohen said after three of them apologized in court. ″They are not without redeeming value.″
The sentence outraged advocates for the retarded and for women’s rights.
″The clear message to women is that the crime of rape is not worthy of punishment,″ said Carol Vasile, a coordinator of the Essex County chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Essex County prosecutor Clifford Minor said the lenient sentence sends a ″frightening message,″ discouraging rape victims from reporting the crime.
Cohen ruled the three given jail terms could remain free on bail pending appeal. A state appeals panel upheld that decision.
Christopher Archer, 21, and Kevin Scherzer, 22, were convicted March 16 of two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault. Scherzer’s twin, Kyle, was found guilty of one count. Bryant Grober, 21, was sentenced to probation for his conviction on a third-degree charge of conspiracy.
The victim, with an IQ of 64 and the social skills of an 8-year-old, testified at a 23-week trial that she was promised a date with a popular boy if she would go to the basement of the Scherzer home March 1, 1989, in Glen Ridge, a suburb 13 miles west of New York.
The jury concluded the victim - 17 years old at the time - was mentally defective and that the youths she considered friends should have known that.
The jury also determined that force or coercion was used in inserting a broom, baseball bat and stick into the girl’s vagina.
The defense contended that the young woman consented to all of the sexual acts and presented evidence of her past sexual experience.
″I can’t express the sorrow I feel. I made a mistake,″ Grober said in court.
Of seven youths indicted, two others pleaded guilty to reduced charges and one is to be tried later.