Request delays sentence for Beach
Convicted rapist asks court to appoint attorney for hearing
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man convicted in December of rape, indecent assault and other sexual offenses asked Thursday for a court-appointed attorney, putting his sentencing hearing on hold.
Richard W. Beach, 42, who faces at least two decades in jail based on his charges, told Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle that he had no understanding of his pending legal proceedings.
“So you’re asking to be appointed counsel for your sentencing?” Doyle asked Beach, who sat alone at the defense table.
“Yes, ma’am,” Beach replied.
In December, Beach insisted on representing himself during a five-day jury trial for lack of satisfaction with the attorneys who had represented him since his arrest in July 2016.
In response, Doyle appointed defense attorney Nathan Pletcher to serve as standby trial counsel. While Pletcher provided Beach with some assistance, Beach cross-examined several witnesses and delivered a one-hour closing argument where he stressed testimony inconsistencies and asked the jury to believe him.
“I had no idea during the trial what I was doing,” Beach said quickly Thursday while acknowledging his request for a court-appointed attorney. “No idea of what I was being forced into.”
During the trial, prosecutors called on multiple witnesses to testify, including two young women who detailed how Beach sexually assaulted them when they were between 14 and 17 years old, when living in Altoona and Logan Township.
One of victims testified that she revealed the abuse to a friend, then later to a teacher. The other victim said she disclosed the abuse to her mother.
Beach contended that they made up the allegations but couldn’t explain why.
He also took the stand in his own defense, but that move allowed prosecutors to question him about the pornographic video files on his computer, including ones referencing sexual acts involving teenagers.
In court Thursday, First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks and Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith were expected to present Doyle with their recommendations for inclusion in a sentence.
The victims could have offered input, too.
Prior to trial, Beach told Doyle that he would reject a plea offer with 20 to 40 years’ incarceration because he wasn’t guilty.
After the trial concluded, Weeks said the length of Beach’s incarceration will likely equal or exceed the 20- to 40-year sentence, depending on the judge’s discretion.
Doyle asked Beach on Thursday if he had a copy of the state’s sentencing guidelines and Beach said he did. Beach also indicated that he received a copy of a pre-sentence investigation report into his background, ordered by the judge for review and consideration when imposing a sentence.
The victims, plus their family and friends, were in court for the sentencing. So were Beach’s family members who attended the trial.
Doyle advised the attendees that because Beach no longer wants to represent himself, the sentencing hearing cannot proceed until Beach has legal representation.
Weeks suggested that Pletcher would be a logical choice for an appointment. But Beach said he would object because Pletcher was his trial attorney. Weeks also mentioned that Beach was previously represented by an assistant public defender and clashed with him.
Doyle said she will review the list of available defense attorneys and make an appointment so the sentencing can be rescheduled. Beach remains in the Blair County Prison where he has been since his July 16, 2016, arrest, unable to post $150,000 cash bail.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.