WEST CHESTER – A former West Chester University student who sexually assaulted a friend in her dorm when she needed a place to sleep will spend the next nine months in prison for the crime, as well as several years under the eye of Chester County court officials.
But whatever punishment Daniel Garcia will face in the months and years to come, it could have been much worse.
According to state sentencing guidelines, the crime Garcia pleaded guilty to on Monday — aggravated indecent assault — carries a recommended sentence of at least 22 months in state prison, and up to four years in this context. It was only through the agreement of the victim in the case and Garcia’s declared remorse that he was spared a longer period behind bars.
According to District Attorney Chief of Staff Andrea Cardamon, his office had approved a nine- to 23-month sentence in Chester County Jail, sex offender treatment, eight years of consecutive probation and the law of Megan after discussing the resolution with the victim and the arrest. officer at WCU.
“We agree that it’s in everyone’s best interest,” Cardamone, who oversees sexual assault cases for the DA’s office, told Common Pleas Judge Alison Bell Royer, who was presiding over the plea for Garcia. “I think he already knows what he did was wrong, and these nine months in prison will reinforce that.”
Garcia, a 22-year-old from Lancaster who appeared in court in a gray suit and white shirt, his shoulder length black hair, admitted he had assaulted the woman, who had been his friend, while he was in his room at Goshen Hall at school. But he offered no open apologies during the proceedings before Royer, leaving his lawyer to speak for him.
“It’s a terrible situation,” said defense attorney Ryan Grace of West Chester. “It’s sad all along. He made what is surely the worst mistake of his life, and it’s going to affect him for the rest of his life. It’s justice. It’s incarceration.”
According to Cardamone, the incident happened when Garcia and the victim – who did not show up for proceedings and whose name is withheld by the Daily Local News due to the nature of the crime – were students together at the WCU. On December 11 and 12, 2018, the woman accepted Garcia’s invitation to spend the night in her room, at a time when she was “struggling” with her own housing situation and staying with other friends in the dormitories.
Cardamone said the two were close, but weren’t romantically or physically involved in any way. The woman had refused Garcia’s invitations to stay in her room on several occasions, but accepted that night out of necessity. They fell asleep next to each other on Garcia’s bed while fully clothed, she said.
But at some point during the night, the woman woke up to feel Garcia’s hand between her legs, molesting her. She panicked and froze, the prosecutor said, and remained motionless for a long time as Garcia continued her assault. At one point, she whispered to him, “I know you can’t hear me, but you’re awesome.”
The next day, the woman confronted Garcia about what had happened, and he immediately expressed remorse and admitted what he had done was not consensual, Cardamone said. “It was immediate,” she said of Garcia’s apology. “But she was destroyed by the event.”
Eventually, about two years after the assault, the woman reported the matter to WCU officer Matthew Rychlak, who recorded a tape recording of a call from the woman to Garcia. Again, he acknowledged what he had done and tried to apologize, she said. After his arrest in January 2020, he accepted his responsibility, waiving his right to a trial and agreeing to plead guilty.
Accepting the plea and imposing the mitigated sentence, Royer said she had “no hesitation” in allowing Garcia to serve the reduced prison sentence. “I think it’s appropriate,” given Garcia’s age, his lack of a criminal history, and the victim’s “agreement” with the disposition.
“On college campuses around the world, stupid things like this happen very frequently,” the judge said, addressing Garcia and his family members, who were seated in the courtroom for the to support. “Unfortunately, Mr. Garcia, this infraction will follow you. Your life has been derailed by your own actions.
Garcia, who was taken out of the courtroom to begin serving his sentence, is barred from contacting the woman during the nearly 10-year sentence.
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.