Recent stories about convicted rapists getting light sentences have been heavily featured lately in the media, most notably the case of the convicted sexual offender, Brock Turner, getting a six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford campus. After a lengthy letter from the victim went viral, more than one million petition signatures have been gathered requesting a recall of the judge in the Stanford case due to the public outrage. But if that case made you angry, prepare yourself to get even angrier about another sexual assault case from back in March.
Alabama State Trooper Samuel H. McHenry II, 36, pleaded down original charges of rape and sodomy to misdemeanor sexual misconduct, and he received a sentence of six months of jail time, according to The Daily Beast. While that may sound familiar and very similar to the infamous case of Brock Turner, there are some additional aggravating circumstances that make this light sentencing particularly disturbing. The first aggravating circumstance is that McHenry is an officer of the law and betrayed the trust of the public he’s supposed to serve, but it gets even worse. The officer was responding to a woman calling for help after an accident when he victimized her with the sexual assault.
And if that isn’t bad enough, it gets worse still. Not only did McHenry get a light six-month sentence, but Judge J. MacDonald Russell Jr. ruled that he can serve his sentence “in increments at his own discretion,” as long as he completes all 182 days within the next calendar year. Which is to say, he gets to choose when he serves his jail time, and come and go at will as long as he completes his full 182 days in the allotted time.
Back in December 2015, WVTM 13 reported the story, detailing the harrowing account of the unnamed victim. She stated that McHenry initially threatened her with arrest after he found bottles and an empty nasal spray bottle in her car when the officer arrived at the scene of the accident.
“The affidavit states that the woman was put unhandcuffed into the back of the patrol vehicle and taken to Exit 107 in Butler County. There, the victim states, she was told she would have to have sex with the deputy or go to jail. She states that McHenry then raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on him with the same threat of going to jail.”
The Alabama Attorney General’s office has not responded publicly to the growing controversy over the plea deal and sentencing. J. McGowin Williamson, a member of the legal team representing McHenry, responded in vague terms to The Daily Beast when asked about the victim agreeing to this plea deal.
“The normal thing is… this [deal] would not be done without the victim’s agreement and acquiescence. As I wasn’t privy to those communications, I don’t know in this case, but normally that would happen.”
Williamson also stated that the plea deal was offered by prosecutors in a three-hour negotiation, without further clarification of why such leniency was recommended in such a shocking case. Both the victim and her attorney were present during the legal proceedings, which Williamson indicated may mean a civil case down the road.
At the time of McHenry’s arrest, Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier had harsh words about the pending case, implying that a conviction would lead to serious consequences for the defendant.
“Although everyone is entitled to due process, the severity of the allegations are unsettling. Probable cause was established, and that led to the arrest. This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The only good news is that McHenry has been stripped of his state certification and can no longer work as a state trooper, and he will be required to register as a sex offender.
[Photo courtesy of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office]