Man gets 1 year in YWCA shelter assault case

Women claim rape; he pleaded to guilty to misdemeanor

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: September 18, 2012, 6:26 PM

 

Women who said they were raped by a man at the YWCA domestic violence shelter portrayed him in court Tuesday as a predator. They told a judge he manipulated them at a vulnerable time in their lives.

The defendant, Uche P. Onwuzuruike, said the women fabricated the rape allegations after he had consensual sexual relationships with them.

The result of the 2010 case against Onwuzuruike: One year in jail, with an additional year if he violates probation.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Dan Stahnke noted the dispute over the allegations as he sentenced Onwuzuruike, saying the case was an example that there are “different sides to every story.”

Onwuzuruike, 32, accepted a plea bargain Aug. 20 to two counts of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

He was set to go to trial that day on three counts of second-degree felony rape. He was accused of sexually assaulting the women at the YWCA SafeChoice Domestic Violence Center between May 2010 and July 2010 while he was a resident there.

The victims told the judge at sentencing they were upset about the plea bargain.

“What you did to me was not fourth-degree assault,” one woman said in court. “What you did to me was clearly second-degree rape.”

Another woman said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety and depression from the incident. She says Onwuzuruike pulled her into his room at the shelter and threw her on the bed to rape her.

“You took away my safety, and I had no choice,” she said. “And I realize that violence every day and night.”

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said the case was even more serious, considering the women had been residents of the shelter because they were already victims of domestic violence.

“The three victims were in a vulnerable situation and they were taken advantage of,” he said. “It’s a manipulation of the system, the (YWCA) system.”

When it was his turn to speak, Onwuzuruike said the women made the rape claims in retaliation because he had reported one of them to Child Protective Services. He denied ever having nonconsenual sex.

His attorney, Jeff Barrar, said there were problems with the state’s case and noted, “Mr. Onwuzuruike never pleaded to those actions.”

At the time of the plea bargain, prosecutors had said there were problems with the timeliness of reporting and inconsistencies in witness statements. Also, the three women had consensual sex with the defendant after the alleged rapes, according to both defense and prosecution attorneys.

In addition, one of the victims was hospitalized, so she couldn’t testify at trial.

Onwuzuruike will be on probation for two years following his release from jail. He has credit for 278 days served. Stahnke also imposed 20-year no-contact orders between Onwuzuruike and the three women.

The YWCA had been offering shelter to women and children only but added men in January 2010. After the alleged rapes, YWCA officials said they reviewed policies and procedures but decided the shelter already had sufficient security measures.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.