Iowa man accused of sexually assaulting mentally ill woman pleads guilty to lesser charge

An Iowa high school graduate accused of felony sex abuse for the sexual assault of a mentally ill woman at a group home will potentially skip jail time after taking a plea deal.

The Des Moines Register reported Thursday that Nicholas Fifield, 18, was scheduled to have a trial Aug. 17, but an Alford plea deal will allow him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of assault with intent to commit injury, which means that he admits no guilt in the crime but acknowledges that there was enough evidence to convict him of the crime.

Judge William Patrick Kelly will sentence him on Oct. 12 after a mental evaluation and pre-sentence investigation. According to the paper, Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said his office won’t oppose probation with possible treatment for Fifield.

“That’s agreeable with the victim’s family,” Sarcone said. “It’s two people with a lot of issues between them. We are trying to resolve it in a way that’s good for all. Prison would not do this kid any good.”

Fifield was 17 at the time he was charged with third-degree sex abuse of a person “suffering from a mental defect or incapacity, which precludes given consent,” according to the Des Moines Register.

Police said Fifield met the 18-year-old victim through and online dating website and was permitted by the victim’s parents and staff at the Des Moines Group home to take her to the movies on Dec. 5.

However, police said Fifield took her to his home in Windsor Heights and forced the 18-year-old woman to perform sex acts against her will. The police report said she said “no” many times.

The victim was clinically diagnosed with a mild form of mental defectiveness, autism, alcohol- and drug-related birth defect syndrome, post-traumatic stress, dissociative identity disorder, major depressive disorder and brief psychotic episodes that make it difficult to communicate with her, according to the police complaint.

Fifield, a tennis star at Valley High School, was suspended one game after the charges came to light. Some parents of other tennis players criticized Valley High School officials for not disciplining Fifield enough.

“Anybody who has a daughter should be appalled by this,” Steve O’Meara, one parent told the paper. “Our public universities suspend and remove such athletes from teams and competition. While even this single situation is appalling, it begs the question: How many other times have situations like this occurred within the Valley athletics department?”

Sean Spellman, Fifield’s attorney, tried to close the case to the public, but Kelly kept it open after The Register argued that keeping the case open was in the public’s best interest.

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