A victim of a sexual assault collapsed on the floor of a Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom yesterday, shouting “Don't kill me! Don't kill me!” shortly before her attacker was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
While the courtroom was cleared, the woman thrashed around on the floor in what her mother termed a flashback to the attack in May. Paramedics took the woman to St. Charles Mercy Hospital, where she was treated.
Later Judge James Jensen sentenced Albert Nemeth, 30, to eight years in prison for aggravated burglary and eight years for kidnapping. He ordered the sentences served consecutively.
The woman's collapse occurred just before she was going to ask Judge Jensen not to allow Nemeth to withdraw a no contest plea to a rape charge he entered Oct. 18.
Nemeth, who is married and has children, was to be sentenced in November on rape and kidnapping charges but balked when he found out he was going to be classified as a sexual offender. Nemeth said he entered the plea to avoid the risks of a longer sentence but contended he never raped the woman.
Yesterday the woman's mother, speaking on her daughter's behalf, said her daughter was upset by the decision of Steve Messinger, a county assistant prosecutor, to substitute an aggravated burglary charge for the rape, even though the crimes carry the same punishment. She said her daughter would rather have the case go to trial.
“She was violated in such a way that aggravated burglary could not replace an act of rape,” the victim's mother said.
Mr. Messinger said he understood the victim's concern but that the substitution would be in the best interest for the case, particularly since both crimes are punishable by three to 10 years in prison. He pointed out that while victims are allowed to have input into the process, the decision about how to charge a crime rests with the prosecutor's office.
Judge Jensen allowed the new plea agreement to go forward after questioning the victim's mother about her daughter's ability to withstand the pressures of a trial.
The victim, who had been a graduate student at the University of Toledo before the attack, reportedly tried to commit suicide in the wake of the break-in.
According to Mr. Messinger, the woman was not the intended victim. He said in May Nemeth apparently stalked a dancer from Scarlett's, 5765 Telegraph, to a nearby restaurant. Police said he followed a different woman out of the restaurant to her apartment on Holland-Sylvania Road.
He forced his way into the apartment, raped the woman by putting a gun inside her vagina, and made the 27-year-old woman give him about $100, authorities said.
In a letter read by Joan Coleman, director of the county's victim's assistance office, the victim said she thought she was going to die when Nemeth pushed her face in a chair and put a gun to her head. “I prayed. I cried. I thought my last thoughts,” her letter stated.
The woman's mother told Judge Jensen that her daughter has been unable to resume her school work and can't hold a job.
“As her mother, I have asked myself a thousand times, how could a husband and father have degraded and violated a young woman in such a manner,” she said. “How would he feel if one of his children were stalked, assaulted, raped, and robbed?”
When his turn came to speak, Nemeth told the judge he never sexually assaulted or beat the woman. He said he intended to buy marijuana from a dancer but went to the wrong apartment. “I would like to apologize for what I did do: I entered her apartment and I scared her,” Nemeth said.
John Thebes, Nemeth's attorney, said his client wouldn't have committed the crime had he not been abusing alcohol and marijuana. He also wished the victim well. “I pray she finds happiness and that she finds hope,” Mr. Thebes said. “I hope there is a life for her after this.”
Before sentencing Nemeth, Judge Jensen told him his term would end someday but his victim's pain and problems could last forever. “All of us feel we have a right to be safe in our own home,” he said.