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Gas station attendant sentenced to prison for rape

A former gas station employee that pleaded guilty last month to sexually assaulting a woman who frequented the shop was sentenced to prison Wednesday before Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark S. O’Connor.

SINGH

SINGH

Gurwinder Singh, 26, previously of 12500 N. State Route 235, Lakeview, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of post release control for rape, a first-degree felony. He will also be labeled a Tier III sexual offender that requires him to register his address with the county sheriff every 90 days for life.

Post-release control sanctions and sex offender registration are mostly formalities, as the likeliest scenario is the defendant will be deported to India following his prison sentence.

The defendant is subject to deportation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which believes Mr. Singh may be in the country illegally, the court reports. Wednesday’s sentencing hearing revealed the defendant has no known social security number.

A legal complexity prompted the defendant to seek to withdraw his guilty plea. At a hearing right before Mr. Singh was sentenced Wednesday, Judge O’Connor rejected a defense motion to take back the guilty plea because defense attorneys argue the defendant technically was not properly notified that any sentence involved mandatory prison time.

At that Oct. 9 plea, defense attorney Marc S. Triplett convinced the judge that his interpretation of the the Ohio Revised Code meant that — legally — his client was eligible for community control despite having pleaded guilty to raping a woman.

On Oct. 11, the court, defense and prosecutors reconvened and it was determined that first-degree felony rape, in fact, does carry a mandatory prison sentence and the defendant was so advised.

That confusion, however, meant his client entered that plea without complete knowledge of his potential sentence, Mr. Triplett argued, citing case law that dictates a defendant seeking to withdraw a plea of guilt ahead of a sentencing be given the benefit of the doubt.

The court observed the low standard for permitting a defendant to withdraw his sentence applies more to constitutional rights, and the issue in this case was largely semantics.  

The defendant was afforded an interpreter at every hearing, the judge said, noting that even if he were eligible, the likelihood of receiving community control was very slim.

Finally, the judge rejected the motion, noting the defendant is probably guilty.

Prosecutors played the 18-minute 911 call recorded from the victim’s cellular phone the night of the rape. She was able to get to her phone and dial 911 before her attacker knocked the phone away. The call remained connected, however, and much of the incident was recorded.

“She must’ve said 30 times for the defendant to stop and that he was hurting her,” the judge said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt after hearing that tape and reading the (presentence investigation) the defendant is guilty.”

The defendant can be heard throughout the recording telling his victim to “open her legs,” offering money for her consent to intercourse.

According to Logan County prosecutors, the 24-year-old victim lived a short distance from the Lakeview Marathon gas station at 12500 N. State Route 235, where the defendant had worked for about six months.

In that time, the two had become acquainted with one another, exchanged phone numbers and eventually text messages.

The defendant occasionally gave the woman free gasoline, beer, cigarettes and candy during that time.

About 9:15 a.m., Feb. 25, the victim sent a text message to the defendant asking to “borrow” $10 in gas, prosecutors have said, and Mr. Singh told her no. Later, she sent him another text message asking if he was free to get together that night about 9 p.m. He replied yes, but instructed her to come to the gas station alone.

Attached to the rear of the gas station were living quarters where the defendant lived. After the victim arrived at the business, Mr. Singh shut the store down and took her into his living area where he gave her beer and tried to engage her physically, eventually forcing himself on her after her constant refusals.

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