Man pleads guilty in assault on mentally disabled woman Workshop's former driver to be sentenced in March

January 07, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A man who worked as a driver for a sheltered workshop in Hanover pleaded guilty yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to sexually assaulting a disabled workshop worker.

The victim, who was not in court, is a 29-year-old woman who functions at a fourth-grade level because of several disorders. Her parents silently watched the proceeding before Judge Clayton R. Greene.

James Arthur Nichols, 52, of the 3500 block of Woodbrook Ave. in Baltimore, entered an Alford plea,in which the defendant acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict him. In the plea agreement, the charge was reduced from second-degree rape to a second-degree sex offense, and prosecutors agreed not to seek more than 18 months in jail when Nichols is sentenced March 4. Lesser charges were dropped.

"I want him to serve 18 months," said assistant state's at- torney BTC Laura Kiessling. "The judge could sentence him to 20 years and suspend all but 18 months."

Twenty years in prison is the maximum penalty.

Nichols' lawyer, John Hannaway, told Greene that Nichols, who now drives for a Baltimore company, sings in a religious group and was being evaluated by a psychologist.

It is unclear if Nichols will have to register with police as a sex offender under changes in the law that took effect Oct. 1, because the crime occurred Feb. 14. If he does, he would be the first in the county to do so under the provisions expanded to include adults convicted of sexually assaulting other adults.

The victim was assembling spray paint cans at the Opportunity Builders workshop at 7905 Connelly Drive. Kiessling said Nichols locked a door so that he was alone with her. He raped her, told her "Happy Valentine's Day," and left, Kiessling said. The day before that, he had fondled the woman, Kiessling said.

The victim, who lives in a supervised group home, told her resident caregiver what happened. Nichols was arrested and fired.

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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