Judge calls Rockingham County jail sex assault 'horrific, bestial'
Joshua McDermott, 29, was convicted by a jury in October of two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for raping the man at the Rockingham County jail last Feb. 4. The victim, 35, was jailed on a habitual offender charge and housed with McDermott who told him, "I can't be held accountable for what I'll do because I'm crazy," according to prosecutors.
Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard argued for the 10-to-20-year prison term, saying that the victim continues to suffer from chronic anxiety, ongoing harassment by co-workers, and overcame the stigma of reporting the sex assault to authorities. "For lots of reasons, people don't report things like this," Blanchard said.
Public defenders argued for a three- to eight-year prison term, saying McDermott struggles with a battery of mental health issues. One diagnosis concluded that McDermott has mild retardation, according to public defender Christine List.
"He wakes up every morning battling 12 mental disorders," List said.
The attack happened while the victim was asleep in his cell, Blanchard said. Jail officials learned of the sexual assault the following day when the victim asked to speak with a female counselor. The victim was brought to Exeter Hospital for a "rape kit" exam.
Blanchard argued that a maximum prison term was appropriate to both punish McDermott for his action and to serve as a public warning to others that the county will seek serious penalties for sexual assaults in jail.
Judge N. William Delker said he had no doubt that McDerrmott suffered from mental health issues based on the records he reviewed prior to sentencing, but concluded his actions called for a harsh punishment.
"What you did was horrific, unforgivable, violent, and I dare say, bestial," Delker said.
McDermott will be allowed to request a five-year reduction from his minimum sentence if he can complete the Sexual Offender Program at the state prison and remain free of any major disciplinary issues for two years, prior to petitioning a judge.
Delker praised the victim in the case for summoning the courage to report the assault to authorities. "What happened to you is completely unforgivable and nothing I can do today can reverse what happened in this case," Delker said. "I hope the sentence I impose in this case can bring some measure of justice."