City man sentenced in child rape case
Plowman to spend 27-54 years in prison
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man will spend 27 to 54 years in prison for convictions of raping and sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl while living with her and her mother in 2016 and 2017.
Alex Strange Budd Plowman, who has been in the Blair County Prison since his arrest in August 2017, said nothing Tuesday in Blair County Court, where Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter imposed the lengthy sentence to be followed by five years’ probation.
“He maintains his innocence,” Defense Attorney Ted Krol said to explain Plowman’s silence. “He believes the girl was manipulated and coached. And he instructed me to work on an appeal.”
The sentence puts the 23-year-old Plowman, who has served a year in prison, in a position to remain incarcerated until he’s at least 49 years old. Thereafter, Plowman’s release would rest with the state parole board that could keep him incarcerated until he finishes his maximum of 54 years. At that point, Plowman would be 77 years old.
“It’s a considerable sentence,” Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith said after Carpenter rendered his decision. “I hope it’s enough to protect the community and give this victim some sense of safety. She’s an amazing little girl and deserves to sleep in peace.”
The child’s father told Carpenter that because of what happened, his 6-year-old daughter has trouble trusting people.
“And so do I,” the father advised the judge.
Carpenter’s sentence included 10 to 20 year consecutive sentences for each of two counts of child rape.
The judge then added 5 to 10 years for aggravated indecent assault and 2 to 4 years for endangering the welfare of a child. Jail time assigned to convictions of statutory sexual assault, indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor will be served concurrently.
Smith recommended a minimum sentence of 75 years for protection of the child and the community. She said she based her calculation on the high end of the state’s standard range sentencing guidelines.
“Only a very lengthy sentence that brings the entire justice system down on this defendant would be appropriate,” Smith said.
Carpenter said he recognized several factors in the sentence, including the child’s “tender age,” the harm to her and the repetitive nature of Plowman’s behavior in a household he shared with the child. The judge also said he recognized Plowman’s youth and his lack of an extensive criminal record.
“He’s not some valueless monster to throw away,” Krol said after describing Plowman as intelligent, inquisitive and interesting.
“I don’t accuse you of being a monster,” Carpenter told Plowman, who was seated at the defense table with his hair pulled back into a ponytail. “But we have some pretty monstrous acts here.”
Plowman, who took the stand in his own defense during the trial, told the jury that the criminal charges were based on lies and that the child was coached by her mother. The mother, Plowman said, wanted to find a way to keep him from contact with their son, a claim the mother denied when testifying.
The mother told the jury that she became “extremely emotional” the first time she heard her daughter’s claim, prompting the girl to say she lied. The girl made the same claim about 10 months later and police were contacted.
During Plowman’s trial, the jury saw video of the girl being interviewed at Mount Nittany Health Children’s Advocacy Center in Bellefonte. When the interviewer asked the girl to describe how Plowman touched her and how he removed her pants and his pants, the child responded by suggesting that she draw a picture. Her drawing showed her and Plowman on a bed in a sexual position.
Smith told Carpenter that after the trial, Plowman’s telephone calls at the Blair County Prison were monitored. He was heard saying he would be out of jail in 10 years, still in the prime of his life, Smith said.
The monitoring of those phone calls also prompted post-trial charges of criminal conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, solicitation to commit homicide, solicitation to commit arson and criminal conspiracy to retaliate against a prosecutor. Plowman tried to enlist the help of family members in retaliation against those who testified against him, those who didn’t testify for him and against Smith.
“Everyone’s been destroyed by this,” said Plowman’s mother, Carolyn McNichol who spoke with her son during the calls he made from the prison. She faces charges of criminal use of a communications device and criminal conspiracy to retaliate against a witness.
“I’m here cause I love you, Budd,” she said to the defendant as he nodded his head.
The mother asked the judge to recognize that Plowman is “somebody’s son” and “somebody’s big brother.”
Based on his convictions, Plowman will be required to regularly register his address with state police as a Tier III sex offender.
Smith told Carpenter that a representative for the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board evaluated Plowman and concluded that he is a sexually violent predator with a lifetime condition, based on his predatory behavior and mental abnormalities. But that conclusion remains subject to challenge.
Because of pending appeals before the state’s highest courts, Carpenter said he is not in a position to take testimony about that report or to decide if Plowman is a sexually violent predator. For that reason, the judge said he didn’t read the report, thereby avoiding any influence the report might have had in his sentencing decision.
Carpenter also apologized for being unable to provide closure to the girl’s family or to Plowman’s family.
“I wish the gavel was a magic wand, but it isn’t,” Carpenter said. “There are all sorts of scars with this.”
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.