ELIZABETHTOWN - A former Lake Placid man was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for raping a woman who was incapacitated, allegedly because he drugged her.
In sentencing Daniel Stahl, 22, of Clearwater, Fla., Judge Richard Meyer revealed an aspect of the case that previously was not commonly known. He said Stahl put his victim and others at risk by not disclosing a potentially life-threatening medical condition that could have been transmitted to her through unprotected sexual contact.
Meyer did not elaborate on the medical condition, and District Attorney Kristy Sprague, who handled the case for the prosecution, declined to comment on it, citing privacy issues, "even though the defense made it fair game in court," she said.
Stahl appeared in court Thursday afternoon with his team of lawyers, which includes Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, J.A. and D.J. Cirando of Syracuse, and Denis deVlaming of Clearwater, Fla.
Stahl was arrested in January 2011 after he was accused of giving a woman the prescription drug Xanax and raping her in the village of Lake Placid one year prior. He was convicted in February on one count of first-degree rape, a class B violent felony, and one count of first-degree sexual abuse, a class D violent felony, following a six-day bench trial.
Stahl has appealed to have the conviction overturned. His lawyers contend that while the woman had Xanax in her system, Stahl didn't give it to her and that no drug residue was found on the glass she was drinking from.
On Thursday, Meyer sentenced Stahl to 12 years in state prison for the rape conviction, plus six years in prison for the sexual abuse conviction, which will run at the same time as the rape sentence.
Meyer also sentenced Stahl to 10 years of post-release supervision and ordered him to pay restitution of $8,889 and fined him $5,000. Stahl will have to be registered as a sex offender, and an order of protection was issued for the victim.
Stahl was originally scheduled to be sentenced on April 26, but it was delayed so Meyer could review Stahl's criminal history. But Meyer said Thursday he couldn't consider Stahl's record because his prior charges were either dropped or never prosecuted.
Before Meyer handed down the sentence, the victim gave an emotional statement before a small crowd which included her own family members and members of Stahl's family.
"I want to take back that night," she said. "I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. You watched me drink that drink with those pills.
"I'm not afraid of you," she added, "but I'm afraid of what you would have done if you weren't stopped."
The victim told the court she went through 28 months of suffering. She spoke about the "circus acts" she put up with in court, and was hurt by the lengths Stahl went to in order to delay the case.
She thanked her family and Sprague for sticking by her side.
"I owe each of them my sincere gratitude," she said.
Sprague said Stahl still hasn't taken responsibility for his actions, and she accused him of using his life-threatening medical condition to paint himself as a victim.
"The victim is a survivor, plain and simple," Sprague said. "The word 'rape' shouldn't be connected to the victim; it should be connected to the defendant."
Sprague asked Meyer to sentence Stahl to the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
"Maybe in prison he'll finally realize what he's done," Sprague said.
Stahl did not make a statement himself, but deVlaming said Stahl and the victim had an "intimate" relationship before the incident leading to his conviction. He also said the incident happened because they were both "wasted."
"I know you're going to punish this man," deVlaming said. "Take everything into account. We tend to forget the good times and tend to remember the betrayal."
DeVlaming said Stahl will have a "scarlet letter" for the rest of his life.
But Meyer rejected the notion that Stahl didn't know what he was doing. He said, based on Stahl's statements to law enforcement, he was aware that the victim was incapacitated.
"He knew she was in no condition to engage in sexual activity," Meyer said.
Meyer said Stahl's condition on the night in question wasn't out of the ordinary and that "his ability to perceive was not impaired." He said if Stahl and the victim had an "intimate" relationship, he should have been the person the victim relied on.
Meyer also said it was "reprehensible" that Stahl didn't divulge his medical condition to his sexual partners.
The defense had previously agreed to pay the full restitution, with about $3,900 going to a victims impact panel and another $4,000 or so going to the victim and her family for expenses. The defense tried to reduce that figure on Thursday by arguing the victim incurred additional expenses because she brought an "entourage" with her for the April 26 sentencing. But Sprague noted that Stahl himself had an "entourage" and that the victim had a right to have her family present for the sentencing.
Meyer declined to let Stahl out on bail pending the appeal. He's currently in the custody of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Barrett said he filed the appeal primarily "for the prosecutor's lack of fair dealing during grand jury," he said. "She had allowed the complainant to make several misstatements during grand jury; she never corrected her on those."
Also, Barrett said, "The prosecutor seemingly inferred that my client had put some drugs in a glass, but the prosecutor knew that he hadn't because of a lab report from the state police crime lab that found there were no controlled substances in the glass after it was tested."
Barrett said his client wasn't allowed to testify at during grand jury proceedings even through Sprague was given a written request asking to do so.
"I've been disappointed through and through with this prosecution," Barrett said. "However, I'm hopeful that it will be reversed on appeal due to the prosecutor's overzealous, Nancy Grace-type, loose-with-the-rules conduct in prosecuting the case."
Sprague said she is pleased with the sentence even though it was less than the 25-year maximum she asked for. She said the notice to file an appeal is routine.
"Defense counsel's comments are emotionally motivated, and I am sure he is very disappointed with the outcome," Sprague said. "However, I will allow the appeals process to decide the issues. My office will continue to fight the fight in court for victims, and negative comments about our diligence and perseverance will go ignored."
Sprague described Stahl's financial resources as "unlimited." She said the outcome of this case is proof that the system works, "with a lot of hard work and determination."