GREENFIELD — An Indianapolis man accused of rape will spend two years in prison despite prosecutors’ attempts to revoke their own plea deal amid the victim’s urging for a harsher sentence.
The woman who accused James Owens, 38, 9032 Wildflower Court, of raping her begged a judge during Owens’ sentencing hearing this week to reject a plea agreement that dropped three of the felony charges against the man she says tortured her.
The victim came to Hancock Circuit Court on Thursday and told Judge Richard Culver the deputy prosecutor who handled the case, Georgeanna Teipen, did not consult her before offering a lenient plea deal to Owens, which Culver approved last month. The victim’s request to take the case to trial was supported by the state; in the days before the sentencing hearing, the state filed a motion asking the judge to throw out the offer; meanwhile, Teipen announced her plans to resign.
Flanked by Hancock County Prosecutor Eaton and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter, the victim read a statement aloud, asking Culver to reconsider.
“Please don’t make me feel like I don’t matter,” the woman said to the judge. “It wasn’t just battery. He raped me. He hurt me. He left scars.”
But Culver, looking down at the woman from the bench with sorrow in his eyes, told the victim he had little choice: having already accepted the plea agreement a month ago, he felt he was legally bound to move forward with the state’s original offer, he said.
So, he ordered that Owens serve the sentence called for in the agreement: the defendant will spend two years in prison followed by six years on probation. Owens pleaded guilty to one Level 3 felony count of criminal confinement and one Level 6 felony count of sexual battery; the three counts of Level 1 felony rape were dismissed. He is required to register as a sex offender and must complete domestic battery and substance abuse courses, the agreement states.
Owens was arrested in January and charged with three counts of rape in addition to the sexual battery charge, according to court records. Teipen filed a plea deal with the defendant last month, and its terms were formally accepted by the judge.
But the document drew criticism from both the victim and Eaton, who suggested Teipen mishandled the case and, following Thursday’s hearing, promptly fired her, just eight days ahead of her resignation date.
About a week after the agreement was approved by the court, the victim asked to meet with Eaton, adding she prefer Teipen not be present. The woman told Eaton she did not agree with the terms laid out in the plea deal, leading prosecutors to file a motion asking a judge to withdraw the agreement.
Owens was arrested earlier this year after the victim came to Hancock Regional Hospital’s emergency room in the middle of the night with signs of sexual trauma as well as bite wounds and a torn and bleeding earlobe, police said. Owens had called 911 for an ambulance because she was bleeding so badly, though he would later deny having purposely hurt her, records state.
The woman told investigators she was with Owens, whom she was dating at the time, earlier that evening at her Greenfield home.
Owens became angry after he found her profile on an online dating site; he called her his slave, punched her in the face and then forced her to have sex with him, she told police. Owens countered the act was consensual, according to court records.
The victim told the judge the criminal justice system had failed her and that she feared Owens would come after her upon his release from prison.
Owens, who has remained in the Hancock County Jail since his arrested in January, did not speak during the Thursday’s hearing.
Terrance Kinnard of Indianapolis, Owens’ attorney, argued that a victim’s opinion is not enough evidence to support tossing out a court-approved plea agreement. With no new information or suggestion of additional wrongdoing, prosecutors had no right to delay closing the case, and the victim had no “veto power,” he said.
Before Culver read Owens’ sentence, he told the victim there was nothing more he could do to change the outcome of the case.
“I don’t want you think you don’t matter — you do matter,” he told her. “Hopefully you’ll be comforted, knowing he is going to the Department of Correction.”