Under a plea agreement reached last week, a former Downingtown man will serve three to six years in prison for forcing himself on a woman at his West Pennsylvania Avenue apartment more than two years ago.Tunisian national Ali Sghaier had been a fugitive until authorities in New York caught him earlier this year. He fled after he was wiretapped telling the victim they never had sex even though DNA samples show otherwise.
Sghaier had been charged with rape and was to stand trial Tuesday before Judge Ronald Nagle. But to spare the victim emotional turmoil of testifying, a prosecutor allowed Sghaier to plead guilty to the lesser crime of sexual assault.
Assistant District Attorney Deborah Ryan said the offer follows discussions with the victim, who was in court when Sghaier entered his plea.
The incident unfolded June 27, 2006, after the woman, who knew Sghaier socially, visited his Downingtown apartment.
She told police Sghaier answered the door wearing only underwear and smoking a marijuana cigarette. She told him to put some clothes on, which he did, and they talked in his living room.
The woman said she and Sghaier kissed, but when he attempted to become more intimate, she told him to stop, and he did. But later, while napping in his bedroom, she woke up to find Sghaier - who weighs more than 200 pounds - on top of her. She told police he then forced her to have sex with him.
When she left the apartment, she told a friend about the incident then reported it to police. DNA samples taken at Brandywine Hospital matched samples police collected from Sghaier.
Ryan said Sghaier would be deported to his native country after he is paroled from state prison. He will be subject to Megan's Law notification requirements for the rest of his life should he ever return to the United States.
The victim did not address Nagle about the incident's impact on her, but Ryan said she could speak when Sghaier is formally sentenced. He must complete an evaluation by the state Sexual Offender Assessment Board before that can occur.
Nagle said he accepted the plea reluctantly.
"Under normal circumstances I would not think this sentence is sufficient for this offense," he told Sghaier, who was represented by Assistant Public Defender Susanna Dowse.
But after considering the victim would be spared reliving the attack during testimony, Nagle said, "I feel comfortable with the three to six years."
Formal sentencing will occur within 90 days.