Culpeper Court: Plea deal on rape case rejected

Judge Susan Whitlock summarily rejected a plea agreement in a marital rape charge Tuesday Nov. 17.

â??It does not meet the ends of justice,â? she said, and with that, Judge Whitlock recused herself from the case, and set it for Dec. 15, 2014, and began the process of selecting a substitute judge to hear the case.

This is the second time the defendant, Kristopher Stewardson, has come to court for a plea deal. The first time, no plea was presented. The second was the Nov. 17 date. Earlier, Stewardson had twice been scheduled for a trial– but it was then postponed. Each time he has been transported to court for the proceedings.

Stewardson stands indicted for one count of marital rape and one count of misdemeanor assault on a family member. The rape charge carries a potential five to life sentence. The assault carries a sentence of up to a year in jail.

He was first arrested March 24, 2014 and indicted by the Grand Jury in April. He has been in jail since his arrest.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jonathan B. Slater told the court the alleged incident occurred after Stewardson became irate over the way his wife disciplined their son.

According to Slater, â??he grabbed her by the throat, threw [her] up against the wallâ?¦â? and began to hit her in the face and head.

â??He grabbed her by the hair,â? Slater said, and told her â??she deserved everything he was doing to her.â?

In the written complaint that led to the arrest it is also alleged that he told the victim she would â??never escape himâ? and that â??if she ever told anyone he would kill her.â?

The court file indicates that the Commonwealth Attorneyâ??s Office was aware of Stewardsonâ??s previous 2010 conviction for assault, according to discovery given to the defense counsel, Ed Gentry.

Afterward the incident, Slater told Judge Whitlock, Stewardson wrote a letter to his children in which he told them â??I beat up your mother and raped her.â? He also communicated with the victim. At that time, according to Slater, the parties were not living together.

In his argument for the plea deal, the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney said the plea agreement was in accordance with the victimâ??s wishes. He also claimed that the Commonwealthâ??s Attorney Office had been in close contact with the victim during the pendency of the case.

He acknowledged that the proposed plea deal fell below the punishment recommended by the Model Sentence Guidelines, but that the deal would allow Stewardson to play a role in the lives of his children. The terms of the deal were not revealed during the court hearing.

â??The agreement will hold Mr. Stewardson accountable,â? Slater said, and at the same time â??meet the ends of justice.â?

Whitlock quickly rejected the deal saying its â??terms were not appropriateâ? for the severity of the crime.

The deal, while not made public, did call for the defendant to plead guilty to the charge of rape.

Once rejected by the court, the prosecution and the defense withdrew the plea. Slater left the courtroom, as did the shackled Stewardson. The victim, who burst into tears at her husbandâ??s admission of guilt to the rape charge, left the courtroom crying.

Commonwealth Attorney Megan Revis Frederick had earlier entered the courtroom but did not participate in the proceedings and left before they began.

Gary L. Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at g57close@aol.com