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Rape’s painful toll described in court

An Oak Harbor family tearfully and angrily described the devastating effects of rape during a sentencing hearing in Island County Superior Court last week.

“Her father is trying to collect the pieces of what happened to his daughter. Trying to make it right again...” the mother of the 15-year-old victim said. “It’s a heavy burden for a young woman. It’s a heavy burden for a family.”

Judge Alan Hancock thanked the family for their heartfelt words before sternly lecturing Michael Asuncion of Oak Harbor. Asuncion pleaded guilty to rape of a child in the third degree Dec. 8 as part of a plea bargain, following a trial on a more serious charge that ended with a hung jury.

Hancock suggested that Asuncion might deserve more than the exceptional sentence recommended by the prosecution and defense in the plea agreement, but he said his hands were tied by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Hancock sentenced Asuncion to four years in prison. After getting out of prison, the young man will have to register as a sex offender.

Asuncion quietly apologized, saying “I’m sorry,” after being twice prompted by Hancock.

“This can only be characterized as not only the parents of the child’s worst nightmare, but the child’s worst nightmare,” Hancock said.

Family members, Chief Criminal Prosecutor Steve Selby and the victim herself spoke about the enormous impact of the crime. They described how she had to be taken out of school because Asuncion’s school-aged friends were constantly harassing her, calling her terrible names. She is going to counseling for post traumatic stress disorder. She cries all the time, has nightmares and has withdrawn from friends.

“She’s been called the worst names in the book just to stand up and do what’s right,” her mother said.

Selby said he was outraged that Asuncion called the rape “consensual sex” in his interview with a corrections officer. As part of his plea bargain, Asuncion signed a statement that said he agrees to “be truthful to the parties, the court and the Department of Corrections about my actions in connection with this offense including, but not limited to, the fact that (she) was physically helpless and mentally incapacitated at the time I had sexual intercourse with her.”

Asuncion raped the teenager May 13 after she was passed out from drinking.

Oak Harbor Police Detective Teri Gardner also spoke at the sentencing. She said Asuncion never described the rape as consensual sex during interviews, but made up ever-changing versions of the offense.

She said there was no doubt that the victim was severely intoxicated and incapable of consent at the time of the assault. The victim consumed six shots of vodka in 20 minutes that night. Gardner said experts said the girl was lucky to be alive.

Gardner said that the teenager was “re-victimized over and over again” by having to testify and submit to interviews, as well as enduring harassment at school.

“She crumpled into a heap and couldn’t take a step,” Gardner said, describing when the victim went through to take the stand.

Selby said he worked out the plea bargain in order to spare the girl from testifying at another trial.

Hancock made it clear that there’s no doubt to Asuncion’s guilt and said it was regrettable that one juror in the trial held up his conviction.

He said Asuncion is lucky the prosecutor didn’t withdraw the plea bargain after Asuncion lied to the Department of Corrections. He also scolded Asuncion for lying to the jury.

“The court agrees with Mr. Selby that the evidence was overwhelming that Mr. Asuncion raped the victim,” Hancock said.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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