A city man was sentenced last week in Cortland County Court to one and a half years in prison as part of a plea agreement for forcibly raping a 15-year-old girl.
Austin P. Uhle, 21, formerly of 11 Charles Street, pled guilty to third-degree rape in exchange for the minimum prison sentence and 10 years of post-release supervision.
Assistant District Attorney Christine Ferraro told Judge Julie Campbell at sentencing the girl was Uhle’s fifth victim since 2016.
“Four involved a teenage girl,” Ferraro told Campbell. “The last one was a forcible rape.”
A Cortland County Grand Jury indicted Uhle on seven charges regarding the April 18, 2018 attack: first-degree rape, third-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree sexual abuse, forcible touching, second-degree disseminating indecent material to minors and endangering the welfare of a child. The rape and abuse charges were felonies, while the three other charges were misdemeanors.
Ferraro explained the plea deal’s recommendation for a minimum prison sentence in a letter to Campbell dated Tuesday, stating it was to spare the girl additional trauma.
“While the defendant is deserving of more time in state prison, this offer was made in order to save the victim of (sic) further traumatization,” Ferraro wrote. “She has gone through a very difficult time.. The defendant’s actions have impacted the victim for the rest of her life.”
Ferraro also argued in the letter Uhle’s criminal behavior is only escalating despite four previous convictions.
“Despite being sentenced to conditional discharges, probation, and incarceration, the defendant’s behaviors have not only continued but escalated,” Ferraro wrote. “The only way to keep the community safe is to incarcerate the defendant in state prison and have him be supervised for as long as possible.”
Campbell also told Uhle at sentencing she noted how his previous convictions, including some before her court, “failed to deter you from preying on young girls in the community.” She also quoted his pre-sentencing report prepared by the Cayuga County Probation Department that stated he had a high risk for recidivism.
Assistant Public Defender Kevin A. Jones also cited the pre-sentencing report’s recommendation to sentence Uhle to six months in jail and 10 years of probation.
Jones pointed to Uhle’s full acceptance of responsibility for his crimes, his employment, his steady housing with his mother, his mental health counseling and his work towards attaining a GED.
“I think he’s motivated to turn his life around,” Jones said, adding his client is afraid of going to prison. “I think he’s motivated by fear. That’s a good thing.”
But Uhle was in the same support situation at previous sentences, Campbell told Jones.
“He was not successful on probation,” she said. “I have the benefit of prior knowledge.”
In a dramatic statement, Uhle said he was remorseful for what he had done and thanked his numerous family members for being there, apologizing to them, as well. He specifically thanked his mother and grandmother and professed his love to his fiancée, who appeared to be in her late teens or early twenties.
“In the last year, I’ve seen a big change in myself,” Uhle told the court. “I have dreams and goals I want to accomplish before I die. I don’t ask you to feel sorry for me, but to believe in me.”
Uhle’s mother and girlfriend openly cried during Uhle’s statements, their eyes and cheeks puffy and wet with tears. While Uhle’s voice cracked and his shoulders heaved as if sobbing throughout the sentencing, his eyes never reddened and there were no perceivable tears on his face.
Ferraro told Campbell she has seen Uhle stage other dramatic gestures of sorrow in what she believed were bids for leniency.
“I’ve seen him cry for the court,” she said.
When Uhle’s sentence was pronounced, Uhle became agitated and disorderly, crying to Jones, “What has happened to me?”
“I’m going to die in prison because of this,” Uhle loudly told Jones. “I’m going to get beat up. I’m going to be treated like s--- because of this.”
“None of my clients have died in prison,” Jones responded. “You’d be the first one.”
Ferraro pointed to the girl’s suffering at the sentencing, noting her parents moved her out of state to try to distance her from the painful memories and traumatic situation.
“It’s very difficult for his victim to talk about,” Ferraro said.
The girl wrote in a letter read aloud at sentencing she could not eat, talk, shower, go to her bedroom alone or go to school because of her pain, terror and distress.
“I honestly never knew how low one could feel until I met you and you made me feel like I was worth nothing,” she wrote. “The worst part was that I couldn’t even look at my own father without panicking because you made me feel as though every male was going to hurt me.”
Her letter also struck a defiant tone.
“You may have taken my innocence away from me and hurt me in many ways but I promise you, you have not won and will never win,” she wrote. “Although what I went through was life-changing and mentally scarring, I truly hope that I am the last female you will be able to victimize.”