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Carnival worker gets probation for hitting, strangling woman
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DARLINGTON - An Indiana man was sentenced Wednesday to two years probation for strangling, hitting and falsely imprisoning a woman in a recreational vehicle while attempting to sexually assault her at the Lafayette County Fairgrounds during Darlington's annual Canoe Fest in June.

Richard E. DeWitt, 37, Woodburn, Ind., pleaded guilty to one count of strangulation and suffocation, a Class H Felony; one count of false imprisonment, a Class H Felony; and a misdemeanor count of battery. DeWitt also had one count of second-degree sexual assault by use of force dismissed on a prosecutor's motion.

DeWitt, who worked at the carnival during the festival, appeared in Lafayette County Circuit Court Wednesday and was sentenced to two years of probation concurrent with two of his charges. He could have the remaining count of strangulation stricken from his record if he adheres to all conditions listed in a deferred prosecution agreement.

The victim could not attend the court hearing as she lives elsewhere in the state, but sent a letter to Judge Thomas Vale explaining how she strongly disagrees with DeWitt's punishment as being too lenient. District Attorney Katherine Findley said she had spoken with the victim and was aware that the victim thought DeWitt should face a harsher sentence.

"As the court can imagine, she feels extremely victimized by the defendant and her employer, who dissuaded her from reporting the incident to the police until the following morning," Findley said.

Findley said that due to both parties' level of intoxication, and that DeWitt has no prior criminal record, a probation sentence was satisfactory.

Public defender Guy Taylor said the sentence was a proper way to address the felony charges as there was a bit of misunderstanding at the time of the incident due to alcohol impairment.

The criminal complaint states that on June 13, DeWitt attempted to sexually assault the woman at the fairgrounds. A co-worker of DeWitt's later told police that DeWitt had been drinking at a local bar when he asked the co-worker if he could borrow some money. The co-worker said he had money underneath a bed in an RV, but that the victim was sleeping in the vehicle. DeWitt went into the vehicle and looked for the money, and then, the victim said, DeWitt turned his attention to her.

She said he grabbed her by the arm and undid his pants, exposing his genitals. The victim said DeWitt then said "Come on, you know you want it," and grabbed her by the neck throwing her onto a bed. The victim said DeWitt choked her three times and slapped her face several times.

At this time, a second co-worker came in to the RV and grabbed DeWitt, spinning him around and shoving him out of the vehicle.

The man who pulled DeWitt out said he was walking by the RV and heard someone say "Leave me alone. Stop choking me," and then the man knocked loudly on the door. The man did not hear an answer and then opened the door, where he found DeWitt missing a shoe and his glasses, standing over the victim who was huddled on the bed crying.

DeWitt then fled the scene and was later located at the Super 8 motel and arrested. He told police that he had argued with the victim but that no sexual contact ever occurred. He said he had confronted the victim about accusations of theft she had made against a fellow co-worker. DeWitt said he argued with the victim but did not assault her. He told police, "she maybe thought I was going to do something to her, which I wasn't."

Taylor said DeWitt was driven to his court appearance Wednesday by his father and asked the court to allow DeWitt to serve out his probation in Indiana to cut down on travel. DeWitt owes court costs of $286.