Portsmouth man gets prison for sex assault of disabled woman
BRENTWOOD — A Portsmouth man was sentenced 10 to 30 years in state prison on Thursday for sexually assaulting a 27-year-old mentally disabled neighbor last November.
Paul Fierley, 51, was repeatedly called a predator at his sentencing hearing in Rockingham County Superior Court for targeting the woman who he knew did not have the mental capacity to give consent for sex.
A jury convicted Fierley last month of three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for getting the woman to have sex with him on more than one occasion between Nov. 1 and Nov. 22.
About a month prior to the assaults, Fierley was convicted of simple assault for kissing another neighbor in the same apartment building, which largely houses elderly residents and adults with disabilities.
"It's clear to the state that he is a predator," Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway said.
Public defender Deanna Campbell questioned how much of an impact the assaults had on her day-to-day life. She argued that Fierley, who she said suffered from depression, anxiety and alcohol issues, should serve a 3 ½ to 7 year prison term.
Judge Marguerite Wageling said she had no doubt that the woman was "extremely vulnerable" and simply did what she was told when she encountered Fierley.
"One thing that seems clear to this court is that Mr. Fierley would have to be a mushroom living under a rock to think that (she) had a full understanding of what was going to happen to her," Wageling said.
The woman's father asked Wageling to impose the maximum sentence possible and to consider Fierley's past convictions, which included convictions for simple assault, criminal threatening and criminal trespassing.
The woman began asking her parents about living in her own apartment when she turned 21. She moved into the building last year once her parents thought she was ready.
Conway said that the woman could follow routines well, but did not known how to respond to novel situations.
The woman held down her own jobs, but was visited daily by an aide and her mother, who wanted to make their presence known in the building.
"This is a very tragic case because this family really wanted to give their daughter independence because they realized that someday they are not going to be there," Conway said.
Prosecutors argued for a 10 to 20 year prison term.
But Wageling added another decade onto the maximum term, so it would ensure that Fierley would be under added supervision once he is released from state prison. He will be required to register as a sex offender for life, and undergo a battery of counseling and education before his release.