Judge: Man’s sentence fitting

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Blair County judge has rejected an argument by a Lakemont man that his prison sentence of 25 to 50 years for the indecent assault of a 12-year-old was a violation of the constitutional ban against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Judge Elizabeth Doyle in March said that Ray Allen Hale, 55, was the “poster child” to receive the state-mandated sentence as a repeat child sex offender.

When she sentenced him, Doyle said she did not hesitate to impose such a stiff sentence on Hale.

The judge didn’t change her mind in the weeks between Hale’s sentencing and her opinion issued this week in which she dismissed his post-trial request to have the verdict tossed out or to be resentenced.

Hale’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender John Siford, pointed out that the jury hearing Hale’s case acquitted him on aggravated indecent assault charges but guilty of indecent assault.

The defense argument was that Hale was not the proper candidate for a mandatory sentence for a repeat offender because he had been found not guilty of the most serious charge against him.

Doyle stated in a four-page opinion that despite being found not guilty on one charge it “does not change the fact that he was convicted of indecent assault against a 12-year-old child.”

Hale had a prior record of similar acts against a child, and Doyle said that qualified him to the 25-year minimum sentence.

“He is one of the criminals who prey on helpless children in our society for whom the statute is designed,” Doyle ruled.

“It is not cruel and unusual punishment to protect society against him by incarcerating him for 25 to 50 years,” she stated.

The incident occurred on a snowy afternoon in early March 2011.

The victim and a friend went to Hale’s home to get out of the weather and to receive a ride to their homes. They had a snack and went to the upstairs of the home to watch television.

Hale came upstairs and entered the room, telling the victim’s companion to shut up. He then acted against the 12-year-old.

“The victim was scared and in shock and did not protest or report what happened,” Doyle stated.

The defense also challenged the 25-year sentence, contending that the prosecution never informed Hale that it intended to seek the 25-year minimum.

Normally notice must be given when the district attorney plans to seek a mandatory sentence.

Doyle said that under the law under which Hale was charged, there was no notice requirement.

But she went on to explain that Hale was aware that if he went to trial and lost, he was facing a mandatory sentence.

She said that prior to trial the prosecution offered Hale a plea deal under which it would not seek the 25-year mandatory if Hale entered

a guilty plea to rape of a child.

Hale rejected the plea deal and selected a jury trial.

Doyle found the prosecution made its position clear that it would not seek the mandatory minimum if he entered a plea. If he went to trial and lost, the prosecution stated it would seek the mandatory minimum.

She concluded he understood what was at stake.

In yet another issue, Hale stated there was no proof entered at trial showing the female victim was under 13 years old.

The girl, however, testified the events took place prior to her 13th birthday, and Doyle stated, “The jury was free to accept her testimony as proof she was 12 years old at the time of the offense.

“The defendant cannot achieve relief on this claim,” Doyle stated.

Hale, who is presently in the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, can now take his issues to the Pennsylvania Superior Court for review.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.