Monday, July 25, 2005

Rapist's plea deal gets him 20 years

Tataboline Brant:

Serial rapist Terral Wright, 24, is hugged by his mother after she testified during his sentencing Thursday. Superior Court Judge Larry Card sentenced Wright to 20 years after he accepted a plea bargain for raping three women he knew

A serial rapist who stalked his victims and collected tokens from his crimes was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison in an emotional hearing that included statements from the defendant's mother and two of the young women he attacked.

Two dozen people packed into Superior Court Judge Larry Card's courtroom for the sentencing, which had been hammered out in a plea agreement earlier this year and accepted by Terral Wright at the eleventh hour, just as jury selection for his trial was set to begin.

Under the agreement, Wright, 24, pleaded no contest to three counts of rape and one count of first-degree burglary in return for a sentence of 20 years to serve and 10 years of probation after he is released. Card also hung 11 years of suspended time over Wright, which he can be made to serve if he violates probation.

In urging Card to accept the agreement, prosecutor Taylor Winston stressed that it was not one the state entered into lightly.

"The nature of this horrific crime was just that -- horrific," Winston said. "It is every woman's nightmare to have a masked man come into their home ... and rape them."

The attacks, which took place over a five-month period in 2002, were brutal, Winston said. The women were jumped in a place where they thought they were safe. They were beaten. One had her genitals washed with a solvent to destroy evidence. Another was raped while a baby cried nearby.

All three victims were acquaintances of Wright's who had in some way rebuffed him romantically, Winston said. Wright knew the women's schedules and who lived with them, she told the judge.

"These weren't random acts. ... These were very calculated, predatory maneuvers."

The state appeared to have strong evidence in the case. One victim's underwear -- taken during the attack -- was found in an attic accessible from Wright's bedroom. Police found a mask that was placed on another victim's face in Wright's possession, Winston said. Wright's DNA was also found on a shirt one of the victims was wearing at the time she was raped.

But Winston said the plea agreement, which was made in consultation with the victims, "gives certainty to the outcome of this case," and would spare the victims and their families from re-living the haunting details during trial.

Two of Wright's victims read statements in court. Both struggled to not cry, taking deep breaths for composure and dabbing their eyes with tissues as Judge Card said, "Take your time, Miss."

After the hearing, one victim, Blaze Bell, who agreed to be identified in this story, said she wanted other women to know that it's possible to survive being raped. She urged people in her same situation who have not gone to authorities to do so.

Bell, 19 at the time of the attack, told the court she would never forget how a masked man appeared from behind her bedroom door one morning in 2002. She said she fought Wright but succumbed after he beat her, giving her two black eyes. She said she prayed her mom and 6-year-old brother would not come home to find her dead.

"I experienced terror I never before imagined," she said. Without a hint of rage, Bell told the judge Wright should be put away for as long as possible to ensure he can't hurt others. "I feel no pity for him," she said.

Another victim, 17 at the time she was attacked, told the judge through tears that she has been in counseling since and is still struggling with it. Reading from a prepared statement, she said what Wright did to her has made her afraid of men, and in particular of black men -- Wright's race, as well as the judge's. She said she's struggled with alcohol abuse and weight gain and loss, and that she is afraid when Wright gets out of jail, "he's going to try to find me and stalk me again."

"Can you please help me put this case to rest?" she asked the judge.

Wright's mother, who was also given a chance to address the court, told the judge her son was a good man and that he was innocent and that if he had been given a better attorney, "the truth probably would have come out."

Judge Card reminded her that her son pleaded to the charges against him. "I'm a parent and a grandparent -- I understand what you're feeling," he said. But, he continued, "He is guilty."

"I love my son," the woman said.

"I know you do," Card said.

As the hearing drew to a close, Wright, dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit, addressed the court. "I'd just like to say that from the bottom of my heart, from deep within myself, I am truly, truly sorry ... for everything that has happened."

Wright said he understood what the victims were talking about in their impact statements, about feeling helpless and hurt. "I have a lack of power. I have feelings of pain, of not being able to control my situation. Of humiliation."

Wright said he had prayed that when this day finally came for the victims and their families, "that they would leave this case here as well as their anger because life is way too short to hold onto something like this."

The one thing Wright did not do was acknowledge he was responsible for his victims' pain. Judge Card pointed that out to Wright just before handing down his sentence. Card said he felt bad for Wright's victims and his mother.

As bailiffs led Wright away, the victim who had pleaded with the judge to help end the case started crying in the front row. People gathered around her, blocking the exit of Wright's family.

"Please, can we get out!" Wright's mother said, interrupting the emotional moment. She nudged past people to get to the door, cursing at the victim as she went by.

People stood still, stunned.

"That's disgusting," a man said in disbelief.

As Wright's mother reached the exit, a bailiff standing there started to say, "Let me tell you something," but she walked out the door.


At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"her son was a good man"

Death penalty phases in CA are also a hoot for reasons along these lines.

Such disgusting bullshit should not be allowed in a court of law.

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, I'm assuming the victims where white -- after all, we're talking Alaska here.

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, we were'nt white, but thanks anyway!!


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