“Society expects better and there’s got to be punishment for it,” President Judge Anthony Vardaro told Moses Alcantara Garcia, 21, during his 30-minute sentencing for an April on-campus sexual assault on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Garcia, a former Allegheny College student who pleaded no contest to indecent assault by forcible compulsion, was sentenced to 12 to 24 months, minus one day, of incarceration at the Crawford County Correctional Facility followed by three years of probation, as well as a $200 fine.
He pleaded no contest to the charge on July 19, as part of a plea agreement with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.
As part of the sentence, Garcia will be required to register as a sex offender for 25 years, will not be allowed on the Allegheny College campus and will not be allowed to contact the victim. Due to time served before sentencing, Garcia will begin his sentence with 127 days of credit, or just over four months. He was arrested May 1, and has been held in the correctional facility unable to post a $40,000 monetary bond.
“She doesn’t want to see him again,” said Paula DiGiacomo, first assistant district attorney for Crawford County. “She doesn’t want to run into him.”
The Campus does not publish the names of victims of sexual assault.
Garcia is permitted to leave the facility on work release as part of his sentence, “but that work release cannot allow the defendant to be anywhere on or near the Allegheny College campus in Meadville,” Vardaro said.
Garcia may be transferred to California, his home state, for his probation as “courtesy” supervision, Vardaro said.
“We understand it’s going to be a rough road due to this conviction,” Ed Hatheway, Garcia’s defense attorney, said.
The maximum sentence for indecent assault by forcible compulsion, a first-degree misdemeanor, is five years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
“In my opinion, this is an appropriate plea agreement,” DiGiacomo said.
Vardaro also noted that the length of the sentence is high for indecent assault, the charge to which Garcia pleaded no contest.
“This sentence is in the top end of the aggravated range, and the reason for that is that it is agreed upon by the parties,” Vardaro said.
DiGiacomo said a difficult issue in this case was that there is no “middle” charge between sexual assault, a second-degree felony, and indecent assault by forcible compulsion, a first-degree misdemeanor. This agreement, she said, was the best both parties could do to find an appropriate sentence for the severity of Garcia’s crime.
When Garcia was arrested, he was originally charged with rape by forcible compulsion, a first-degree felony; sexual assault, a second-degree felony; indecent assault by forcible compulsion, a first-degree misdemeanor; and indecent assault without consent, a second-degree misdemeanor.
If he was convicted on all charges, he faced up to 37 years in prison and a $65,000 fine.
During the sentencing, both parties spoke on what occurred during the April assault. Hatheway said both Garcia and the victim were at a party at Delta Tau Delta and left to go to the victim’s residence hall, which, Hatheway said, “was not uncommon, (but) not in a romantic sense.”
“They were good friends, which makes this even worse,” Hatheway said. “I think we’re dealing with a good young man who had a bad night and, unfortunately, it affected the victim, (and) it affected his life.”
Garcia, who served in a Junior ROTC program in his Santa Ana, California, high school, asked the judge about the possibility of an early release from probation, so he could join the military.
“You can expect to serve all of (the sentence),” Vardaro said.
The judge conceded he is near retirement, but added “I think any judge that looks at this will say this is the plea agreement, and he’ll serve all of this.”
Garcia received letters of support from Linda Ernst, the college’s interlibrary loan manager, and Darnell Epps, Allegheny’s former associate director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center.
Jacquie Kondrot, former associate dean of students, and IDEAS Center Director and Associate Dean of Students justin adkins were in attendance at the Wednesday sentencing in support of Garcia.
DiGiacomo added that the victim did not want to “ruin” Garcia’s life, but sought an appropriate sentence for Garcia’s crime.
“They also wanted it to reflect the impact this has had on the victim,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s been difficult for her because she has to live with it every day. … She wants to try to continue her education at Allegheny. It’s been very difficult for her to do that.”
Correction 4:46 p.m. Sept. 6, 2018: Ed Hatheway’s title was not introduced on his first reference. The Crawford County Correctional Facility’s name has been used on all references to Garcia’s incarceration. A previous version of this article identified the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center as the Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center.