BRENTWOOD — A former home care worker accused of sexually assaulting a mentally handicapped male client at a Portsmouth parking lot admitted to a lesser charge on Monday instead of going to trial.
John Riley, 42, of Milton pleaded guilty in Rockingham County Superior Court on Monday to a felony count of criminal restraint.
Judge Kenneth McHugh sentenced Riley to 3 to 6 years in state prison, agreeing with the terms of a plea deal negotiated between county prosecutors and the defense.
Riley was accused of forcing the 35-year-old man into a sex act on Nov. 2, 2012, following a Halloween-themed dance hosted by Living Innovations offices in Portsmouth. The incident happened in a Portsmouth parking lot.
Assistant County Attorney Terri Harrington said Riley will be barred from working with developmentally disabled people when he is released from prison and ordered to have no contact with the victim.
The victim, now 36, has withdrawn from receiving any services from the care provider.
“He is no longer involved in any programs because he is in fear of being victimized again,” Harrington said on Monday.
The man’s mother told a judge on Monday that her son had been victimized twice before, but was told the cases were “un-prosecutable” because of her son’s mental capacity, according to Harrington.
Riley changed his plea on the same day he was scheduled to go to trial on charges of kidnapping, aggravated felonious sexual assault, false imprisonment and indecent exposure and lewdness.
Those charges were dropped by prosecutors as part of Monday’s plea agreement. The sex assault charges carried potential state prison sentences of up to 10 to 20 years.
“This is a case I would have loved to have tried but for the enormous risks posed to Mr. Riley,” defense lawyer Lincoln Soldati said on Monday.
Riley will have to undergo a sex offender evaluation once he is released from prison, but he will not be required to register with the state.
“He will not be deemed a sex offender and will not be required to register as a sex offender,” Soldati said.
Soldati harshly criticized Portsmouth police, saying a key piece of evidence – a cell phone owned by the victim – was never analyzed as part of the investigation and later destroyed by a family member of the victim.
“There was no investigation. The investigation was a disgrace,” he said.
Soldati had requested permission from a judge for access to the cell phone so it could be forensically analyzed by a defense expert, according to court records.
Harrington said the state was made aware that the phone was unavailable after the defense’s request for it.
“There were significant evidentiary issues in this case,” Harrington said.
Harrington also said she did have concerns about the victim’s ability to testify, even though he was willing to go forward with the trial.
Riley will report to the state prison next Monday to begin serving his sentence. Harrington said the plea agreement has no bearing on the state pursuing other cases against Riley if other people step forward with complaints.
“I am hopeful that any other victims out there from this individual saw that this case was prosecuted,” Harrington said.
Allegations about Riley’s behavior with a 24-year-old Lee man were cited in a civil lawsuit filed in March.
Riley is not named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit. The 24-year-old’s mother and legal guardian filed a lawsuit against Riley’s former employer, Living Innovations, and the non-profit group, Community Partners of Strafford County Foundation.
The lawsuit alleges that workers failed to protect her son against being sexually abused by Riley. The man disclosed in June 2011 to an employee of Community Partner that he was being abused by Riley but the complaint was ultimately “unfounded,” according to the lawsuit.
Harrington said Riley is not being investigated by her office in any other case.