Friday, March 22, 2013

Teen pleads guilty to rape of 2 girls

Victims’ families not satisfied with plea agreement

Express Staff Writer

Eighteen-year-old Mark Allen Karlovich consults with his attorney, Douglas Nelson, at a change-of-plea hearing Tuesday in Blaine County 5th District Court. At the hearing, Karlovich admitted to having sexual intercourse with two 14-year-old girls, actions considered as rape under Idaho law. Express photo by Willy Cook

    An 18-year-old Hailey man admitted in court Tuesday to having sexual intercourse with two 14-year-old girls in late 2012.
    Under Idaho law, Mark Allen Karlovich, a former Wood River High School senior, is charged with rape, a crime punishable in the state by up to life in prison. The statute he’s charged under does not require that the sexual activity was forced upon the girls. However, according to police reports, both victims reported that they were forced, either physically or out of fear of Karlovich.
    The second rape occurred while Karlovich was free on bond in the first case.
    Security was tighter than usual at Karlovich’s change-of-plea hearing, which started at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Blaine County 5th District Court. Bailiffs operated the metal detector, which is usually turned off, at the entrance to the building, making sure that no weapons were brought into court.
    Some 70 of the victims’ family and supporters attended the hearing in a show of community support for prosecution of Karlovich, who was brought into court in orange jail clothing with arms and legs cuffed.
    Karlovich glanced at the crowd as if surprised, then averted his eyes and nodded to his parents, who sat alone in a far corner of the courtroom.
    Even though there were two victims, under a plea agreement between Karlovich and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Karlovich pleaded guilty to only one count of rape. However, both girls’ names are listed on an amended criminal complaint against him. In district court, a criminal complaint is technically known as an “information.”
    The first case against Karlovich arose the evening of Oct. 10, 2012. A Hailey police report states that the victim said she was riding her bike past Karlovich’s home. The girl was acquainted with him but told police that Karlovich physically forced her into the home and restrained her while the sex act occurred.
    The second case occurred on Dec. 29 while Karlovich was free on $3,000 bond. The victim in that case told police that a friend who was staying with her invited Karlovich over. According to a police report, the girl said she had sex with Karlovich because she was afraid of him.
    Karlovich was arrested again after the second incident and is now being held in the Blaine County jail on $500,000 bond.
    The mother of one of the victims was allowed to make a statement at the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing. She told the court that the families of both girls were not pleased with the plea and that they had been left out of the process.
    “We’ve been cut out and not allowed to approve the final offer,” the mother said. “No one was privy to it as far as the families are concerned and it’s not right.”
    Idaho law requires that victims or their families be consulted in plea agreement offers but not that they approve of them.
    Specifically, the mother said, the families believe the agreement is too lenient and that the statute under which Karlovich is charged does not require that he register as a sex offender.
    Karlovich is charged with rape under Idaho Code 18-6101, Subsection 1, which applies specifically to a defendant who is 18 years old and has sexual intercourse with a victim under 16.
    That subsection is one of the few exceptions under Idaho’s sex offender registry laws that does not require that someone convicted of the sex crime register for life as a sex offender.
    Some of the victims’ family members told the Idaho Mountain Express that they believe Karlovich should have been charged under a different statute that would have required sex offender registration.
    The plea agreement also provides that prosecutors will recommend a 10-year prison sentence, with three years fixed and seven years indeterminate. It further provides that defense attorney Douglas Nelson cannot argue for less than the Idaho Department of Correction “rider” program. Under the rider program, convicted felons are given the opportunity for rehabilitation. The sentence can last from six months to a year at the discretion of the Department of Correction.
    Presiding Judge Robert Elgee is not bound by the sentencing recommendations and can impose a sentence at his own discretion. Karlovich is not allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
    After accepting the guilty plea, Elgee scheduled sentencing for 11 a.m. on June 3.
    In an email to the Idaho Mountain Express, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas stated that he believes an equitable offer was made to Karlovich.
    “These are emotionally difficult cases and I do not want to comment extensively while the case is under way,” Thomas said. “We always strive to comply with the victim’s rights statute and treat victims with dignity and respect.”
    Thomas further explained that the four goals in sentencing are protection of society, deterrence, rehabilitation and punishment.
    “I believe our recommendation in this case takes those factors into consideration,” he said.
Terry Smith:

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