Rape suspect pondering guilty plea | VailDaily.com

Rape suspect pondering guilty plea

Veronica Whitney

EAGLE ” It’s been a year since the alleged rape Jonathan Schut is accused of took place at the Vail parking structure. Since then, Schut has grown from 170 to 193 pounds, he’s grown his hair and the goatee has turned into a four-inch long beard. His nails however are shorter than what they used to be, he said.

“I got upset the other day when one of the jail guards said to me, ‘I notice all sex offenders have long fingernails.’ What she said is wrong, I’m not a bad guy,” said Schut, during an interview at the Eagle County jail where he’s been detained since April 18. He faces 13 criminal charges and could go to prison for life if he is convicted.

“But I’m all right, I’m healthier and I’ve had a chance to think about everything,” said Schut, who is accused of raping a 29-year-old Denver woman in the Vail parking garage on March 12, 2005, and attacking another girl in her Eagle home. “I haven’t had a drink, a cigarette or a joint in almost a year. I can run now for 30 minutes.”

These days, he works out six times a week and he reads books every day ” his favorites are from the Harry Potter series. He also reads the newspaper to find information about similar cases to his, he said.

By Monday, when he’s next scheduled to appear before Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart, Schut will have to decide whether to accept the plea bargain he has been offered by prosecutors.

“If I take a plea bargain, I will plea to burglary and attempted sexual assault,” Schut said. “If the plea isn’t right, I’ll go to trial. I don’t want a lot of time in prison.”

Prosecutors have filed three criminal cases against Schut. In the case of the Denver woman, the following charges have been filed: sexual assault, robbery, felony menacing, trespassing and two counts of assault.

For allegedly attempting to attack the woman at her home in Eagle on March 18, 2005, Schut faces the following charges: attempted sexual assault, burglary, trespassing and assault. The third case is for possession of drugs.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, who in the past said he doubted a plea would be offered due to the gravity of the charges, said the plea bargain offered to Schut includes a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

“We would be asking close to the maximum because the potential sentencing if he is convicted in trial is life in prison,” Hurlbert said.

In another sexual assault trial in August in Clear Creek County, the defendant, Norman Atkins, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for sexual assault on a child, Hurlbert said.

“We take sex offenses very seriously. If (Schut) doesn’t want to take (the plea bargain), we’ll go to trial,” he added.

But Schut said anything above 20 years would be unfair because this would be his first conviction on a sexual assault charge. Previously he was arrested for burglary, concealing his identity and criminal damage to property, police reports say.

Schut said he’s also concerned that Judge Hart is retiring at the end of the month.

“He’s a fair guy,” said Schut, who partially blames drugs and alcohol for getting him in trouble with the law. “Don’t throw me in prison without drug and alcohol rehab. I still wake up sweating, wanting to drink.”

To Schut, alcohol and drugs are a disease he believes he inherited from his birth parents. Schut’s adoptive father, Robert Schut, a pastor from Mescalero, N.M., said Schut’s birth mother drank when she was pregnant and Schut was born with fetal-alcohol effects.

“The first time I met my birth mother I was 18 and she was drunk,” Jonathan Schut said.

But drug use isn’t a defense in a criminal case, Hurlbert said

Though he believes alcohol and drugs ruined his life, Schut said he takes responsibility for his mistakes. “The longer I’m here,” he said about jail, “the more I come to terms with things.”

Vail, Colorado

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