In a 2-1 decision, the 7th District Court of Appeals has vacated the plea of an Austintown man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges he raped a teenage girl.
The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court for further action.
Friday’s ruling vacated the Alford plea David T. Adams, 39, of New Road, had entered before Judge John M. Durkin sentenced him in December 2011 on eight counts of raping the girl while she was between age 15 and 17.
In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit his guilt but agrees that, if the case were to go to trial, there would be enough evidence that a jury could find him guilty.
The appeals court ruled that Judge Durkin, of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, abused his discretion when he overruled Adams’ pre- sentence motion to withdraw his plea and go to trial.
In his plea-withdrawal request, Adams complained that he wasn’t given enough time to think about his plea, and that, after he entered it, he was “publicly humiliated by The Vindicator and other published entities.”
Judge Durkin overruled Adams’ plea-withdrawal request, saying Adams “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily” entered his plea.
Adams suddenly collapsed to the courtroom floor after Judge Durkin pronounced sentence and was evaluated by an ambulance crew before the judge completed the sentencing hearing.
The appeals court ruled that Judge Durkin should have granted Adams’ plea- withdrawal request because Adams maintained his innocence and had 36 hours or less to consider the prosecution’s plea offer.
The appeals court also cited an Ohio Supreme Court ruling “that pre- sentence motions to withdraw should be freely and liberally granted.”
The majority opinion was written by Judge Joseph J. Vukovich, with Judge Gene Donofrio concurring.
In her dissenting opinion, Judge Mary DeGenaro wrote that Judge Durkin gave Adams a full day to contemplate the prosecution’s plea offer and that: “No defense, meritorious or otherwise, was offered.”
She added: “Adams’ motivation for entering the plea was to minimize his exposure” to prison time.
Had Adams received maximum consecutive sentences on all eight rape counts, he would have been sentenced to 80 years in prison.