HUDSON — A man convicted of rape was sentenced in Columbia County Court last week to more than a decade in prison.
Morgan Sheldon, 44, of Chatham, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Jonathan Nichols to 15 years in state prison for first-degree rape, according to a statement issued by the Columbia County District Attorney’s office.
“It was a particularly heinous crime, and the survivor suffered tremendously but was able to courageously overcome her injuries and cooperate with the sheriff and us, so that we could successfully prosecute this violent criminal,” Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka said Monday. “I believe the sentence was fair. Truth be told, no sentence is too harsh for such a violent rapist.”
Conviction of first-degree rape carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, according to state penal law.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office investigated the offense committed in Stuyvesant on Dec. 3, 2017 after receiving a report that a woman was physically assaulted. Sheldon forcibly compelled the victim into sexual intercourse, according to the police investigation.
Sheldon and the victim knew each other, according to police.
The Register-Star does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Sheldon fled the area after the incident and was found a week later in Albany. Sheldon was apprehended with the assistance of the Albany Police Department on Dec. 11, 2017, and turned over to Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies, police said. He was charged the same day.
Sheldon was preparing to plead guilty in February to attempted first-degree rape, a class C felony, in full satisfaction of the charges, but just as he was about to make his plea, he changed his mind.
When Nichols asked Sheldon if he committed the crime, Sheldon hesitated before saying, “Yes.” Sheldon’s hesitation prompted Nichols to ask Sheldon again. This time, Sheldon replied, “No.”
Sheldon’s answer visibly shocked a handful of people gathered in the courtroom.
Although Sheldon tried to take back his “No” response, Nichols immediately ordered Sheldon to return to court on March 5 at 10 a.m. to determine a trial date. Nichols said he had no choice but to schedule a trial since Sheldon forfeit his plea.
As Sheldon was being escorted from the courtroom in February by Columbia County Sheriff’s officers, Sheldon turned to the alleged victim, who was sitting in the gallery, and said, “See you at trial.”
Nichols said Sheldon’s contact with the victim violated the order of protection issued Dec. 13 by the court on behalf of the victim, and he was ordered back to jail without bail.
On May 16, Sheldon once again changed his plea and pleaded guilty in Columbia County Court to first-degree rape.
Sheldon was represented by the Columbia County Public Defender’s Office.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to email@example.com, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.