A judge refused a plea deal after the accused adamantly said he was innocent of the charge.
Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matt Reger stopped court proceedings Tuesday while explaining the charges to Lamont Andrew Russell, 41, Bowling Green.
Lamont was indicted in December for rape, a first-degree felony, after he allegedly engaged in sexual conduct on Nov. 4 with a woman after compelling her to submit by force or threat of force.
Wood County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hoppenjans said Russell had agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. In exchange, the state would recommend community control sanctions.
“I didn’t commit this crime I’m accused of,” Russell said, interrupting Reger as he read him his rights.
He said he has a wife and two kids “and this thing is going to stay with me the rest of my life.”
Russell said that he had sex with the alleged victim, but did not force her.
“This really hurts deep in my soul to be accused of something I did not do,” he said.
Reger stop proceedings and said he could not go forward with the plea hearing.
“I don’t believe we can proceed forward,” he said. “I will not accept a plea from someone who says they are not guilty.”
Russell said he pleaded guilty because he did not want to go to trial. If found guilty, he could go away for 11 years, he said.
“That cannot happen. I did not do this crime. This is why I’m willing to take this plea,” he said.
Reger met with Hoppenjans and defense attorney Sara Roller in his chambers for less than five minutes.
Upon their return, Reger set a jury trial date of June 23 with a final pretrial hearing for May 18.
“Mr. Russell, just because we set a jury trial doesn’t mean that’s where we’re going,” Reger said.
“You are entitled to the rights everyone else is entitled to,” Reger said. “If you say you are not guilty, you are entitled to all the processes that this country and this state provide for you to challenge those charges.”
“At this time I just can’t accept a plea of guilty when you are telling me you are not guilty,” the judge said. “You are not guilty at this point.”
“I am not guilty, your honor,” Russell said.
Reger suggested Russell have a full conversation with Roller before they proceed.