18-year-old tennis star Nicholas F. of Windsor Heights, Iowa, was supposed to go to trial this Wednesday for an alleged sexual assault he committed last December against a young autistic woman who suffered from severe depression and birth defects, among other mental illnesses that severely impair her daily functioning and quality of life.
Instead, Nicholas has entered an Alford plea to a lesser charge of “assault with intent to commit serious injury” — meaning, that, according to the Des Moines Register, he “admits no guilt but acknowledges the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him.” Under Iowa law, he could have faced 10 years in prison; instead, now it’s possible he will just get probation. Nicholas will be sentenced in October after a mental evaluation and further investigation.
According to the newspaper, the two met online. Nicholas, who was 17 at the time, picked her up at a group home, under the pretense of taking her to the movies. He then allegedly took the victim, then 18, back to his house and assaulted her. The police report and criminal complaint point out that she said “no” multiple times to his advances, and he was eventually charged with felony sex abuse for “forcible fondling” of a mentally impaired person. The victim has clinical diagnoses that also include “mental defectiveness, alcohol-and-drug-related birth defects, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder and language disorders.”
It’s difficult to not draw comparisons to the infamous Brock Turner case, because Nicholas was also a standout athlete. The school’s handling of the case came under scrutiny when Nicholas, a tennis star, whose father was a coach, was suspended for just one tournament following the charges.
And similar to Judge Aaron Persky, Polk County attorney John Sarcone said his office will not “oppose probation with possible treatment for the young, first-time offender,” adding that “prison would not do this kid any good.” Formal sentencing won’t take place until October, but this case raises questions about why our society seems to be so sympathetic toward male athletes despite the gravity of allegations.
(Via Des Moines Register)