On November 27, 1996, a fifteen year old girl and her friend went to visit another friend at an apartment leased by a man named Maler in the Village of Walton in Delaware County. Once in the apartment, the girl left her friends in the living room and went into the kitchen. There she was met by Steven Alford, one of the residents of the apartment who had followed her in to the kitchen. She began talking to him and they moved to a back bedroom of the apartment. The girl stated that Mr. Alford then started to take her shirt off. She stated that she told him not too, but Mr. Alford continued. The victim states that Mr. Alford then put his arm around her waist and forced her onto the bed. Although, the room had no door but just a towel in the door frame, the victim stated that she froze and did not cry out because of her fear.
The victim stated that Mr. Alford then removed her clothing and his, pushed her down onto the bed and had forcible sexual intercourse with her against her will. The victim testified in court that she never cried out because the music in the apartment was so loud that she did not think that anyone would hear her. She was also worried that she would anger her attacker and he would hurt her. When the rape was over, the victim testified that Mr. Alford got dressed and told her that he would kill her and her family if anyone ever found out.
The victim testified that she left the room and dressed in the bathroom. The victim stated that after that, she went in to the other bedroom and played cards with her friend. She did not report the incident or tell anyone of it until December 30, 1996 when she reported the rape to police.
Mr. Alford testified that he was never alone with the victim when she came to the apartment, never touched her, and did not rape her. Mr. Alford stated that all he did while she was there was look at her. The State disagreed. The State called three witnesses.
The first witness was Mr. Maler, the subject who leased the apartment. Mr. Maler stated that he saw the victim and Mr. Alford leave the living room and go through the door in to the kitchen. After that, he stated that he did not know where they went.
The second witness was the victim’s friend who is also a teen aged girl. She stated that she saw the defendant take the victim in to the other bedroom. However, when she testified, she mistakenly referred to the incident date as November 26, 1996.
The third witness was the victim herself who related the events above. Mr. Alford was tried and convicted of the crimes of rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree, sexual abuse in the first degree and endangering the welfare of a child. This case was indicted by a Delaware County Grand Jury. Mr. Alford was convicted of all charges on a bench trial.
Mr. Alford filed an appeal arguing that the evidence in his case was not sufficient to support the elements of the crimes with which he was charged and that the sentence that he was given of twenty five years to life on the rape in the first degree. The other offenses had shorter sentences and were ruled to run concurrent which actually did not add any more time on to the existing twenty five years.
The SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION: THIRD JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT heard the appeal. Judge Lahtinen documented the case which was presented to the following Supreme Court Justices: Crew III, J.P., Spain, Mugglin, Rose and Lahtinen, JJ. Mr. Alford was represented by a New York Sex Crime Lawyer, David C. Roosa of South New Berlin. The State’s case was presented by Richard D. Northrup Jr., District Attorney,
The State brought forth the evidence that while Mr. Alford claimed to have not touched or been alone with the girl, two independent witnesses were able to put him leaving the living room with her and going in to the kitchen exactly as the victim had said they did. Further, one witness put them going into the bedroom together which established that his testimony of the events that night was not trustworthy. The evidence presented by the witnesses tended to reinforce the victim’s account of the events of that night and discount Mr. Alford’s account.
There is no question about the ages of the victim who was 15 and Mr. Alford who was 32 at the time of the incident. The victim was not of the age of consent. Any sexual contact with her would constitute a rape in the third degree under the laws of the state of New York. The Justices felt that the element of forcible compulsion was evidenced in the victim’s testimony and the fact that Mr. Alford denied being alone with the victim. Unfortunately, for Mr. Alford two witnesses saw him go into a room alone with the victim. Taking the discrepancy of accounts into perspective, the Justices stated that the victim’s testimony was the most reliable. Once that was established, her account that he had placed her in fear is all that was necessary to increase the charges to first degree rape. It is not a necessary element of forcible compulsion that the victim to cry out, fight back, or otherwise resist. It is enough that the victim was placed in fear of bodily harm with or without a verbal threat or physical contact. In spite of all of this, it is noticed that corroborating testimony, which was present in this case, is not necessary due to the fact that the victim was under the age of consent.
The Justices further stated that it is clear in the testimony of the initial trial that the Judge had rejected Mr. Alford’s account of the evening. The Justices saw no “reason to disturb” the County Court’s ruling of Mr. Alford’s credibility. The inconsistency in the testimony of the witnesses, i.e. the friend’s account of a different date, was not essentially destructive to the case. People often get dates wrong. One person’s mistake of date was not sufficient to make the victim’s testimony less compelling.
The Justices ruled that the verdict of guilt was affirmed and would stand. The Justices also ordered the sentencing was not harsh or excessive, but was within the statutory guidelines for the charges.
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