A man with more than 40 convictions will be out of prison in less than a year partly because his latest victim was drunk when he beat her, prosecutors said.
Larry Rieger, 45, pleaded guilty Thursday to a fourth-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor, in Juneau Superior Court.
Charges of first-degree attempted sexual assault and third-degree assault, both felonies, and interfering with a report of domestic violence, a misdemeanor, were dropped in a plea agreement between public defender David Seid and Assistant District Attorney Kurt Twitty.
Judge Patricia Collins sentenced Rieger on Thursday to one year in prison. He has been lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center since his arrest Nov. 26. With time already served and time off for good behavior, he may be released as early as May.
He was accused of beating a woman and threatening to kill her if she didn't perform oral sex on him.
Seid said the plea was fair given his client's extensive criminal history. According to court records Rieger has more than 40 criminal convictions since 1987. Charges include prostitution, disorderly conduct and more than a dozen assaults. One of the prior assault convictions involved the victim in the latest conviction.
Seid said the plea was "fair and just," and Rieger accepted responsibility for the assault and his punishment.
Assistant District Attorney Twitty said the woman's condition at the time of the assault weighed heavily in the state's decision.
"The fact that she had been drinking played a significant role in the plea," he said. "The victim's recollection of what happened was shaky and there were no corroborating witnesses to the sexual assault. The facts we had supported the plea."
Rieger's victim told the Empire she was disappointed in the outcome of the case. The Empire is not releasing her name.
"I cried and couldn't stop crying," she said. "I'm an alcoholic. I try not to be a practicing alcoholic all the time and I don't remember everything from that night, but does that mean that someone has a right to beat me up or do anything they want to me? Does that mean he has a right to get away with it?"
The problem was providing proof, Twitty said. There was significant evidence of the beating, he said, which supported the misdemeanor assault charge.
The woman said Rieger, who was staying at her downtown apartment after being released from prison, came home and they began arguing. She told him to leave. He punched her in the face and began strangling her, she said. Over the next four hours, she alternated between trying to calm him down and blocking punches, she said. She tried to leave. He put a bar stool in front of the door, she said.
To prove felony assault, one of the original charges, which carries five years in prison, the state would have had to show that Rieger placed the woman in fear of imminent danger, Twitty said.
The woman said Rieger pushed her into her bedroom. He hit her again, and with his hands around her throat she reached for the phone, she said. Twitty said there was some evidence he ripped the phone out of the wall, but no evidence she was trying to call police. The state therefore dropped the charge of interfering with a domestic violence report. He said there was evidence she tried to call a friend. That call started shortly before Rieger wrapped the phone cord around her neck, she said.
Rieger then ordered her to perform oral sex or he would kill her, she said. That constituted the attempted sexual assault charge. The woman initially told authorities she performed the act so he would stop hurting her. She said later she didn't remember doing it. The charge was dropped for lack of evidence or witnesses, said Twitty.
Seid said Rieger denies there was a sexual assault.
Twitty said he counseled the woman to get a restraining order against Rieger when he is released from prison. According to court records, Rieger already has three long-term protective orders against him from three women.
At least a conviction under the plea agreement would keep the public safe and reaffirm societal norms, Twitty said. He also said the state wanted a resolution that would allow the woman to "be able to move on and put this behind her."
Since the incident, the woman said she's lost her job and been "on self-destruct."
"I just can't seem to keep it together since this happened," she said. "I just don't know what I'm going to do next and I don't know how to feel yet about when he gets out. He threatened to kill me, but maybe he'll leave me alone. I just don't know. We'll just have to see what happens."
Melanie Plenda can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.