Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fort Thomas Sexual Abuse Offender Sentenced To Maximum Penalty

Nicholas Reckley was tried in Campbell County Circuit Court Sept 12-Sept 14, 2016. Campbell County Detention Center. Fort Thomas Matters spent time covering the three-day trial. 
A rare three-day jury trial concluded yesterday in Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward’s courtroom in Campbell County Circuit Court.

Nicholas Reckley, 25 from Fort Thomas, was sentenced to ten years in jail and will register as a sex offender for the rest of his life from an August 2015 incident that Fort Thomas Matters first reported, where he was accused of groping a jogger in the early morning hours in front of Highlands Middle School in Fort Thomas.

He was charged with two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, both felonies, as well as charges of menacing and indecent exposure, both misdemeanors.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Man Arrested For Sexual Abuse of Morning Jogger 

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After the long trial, the jury deliberated for 90 minutes and returned four guilty charges.

After the jury found Reckley guilty of the four charges, the trial concluded with a three-hour sentencing trial. Because Reckley was a prior felon, a Persistent Felony Offender charge was also added to his sentence, which could have raised his maximum sentence from one to five years for each felony up to five to ten years.

The Commonwealth was asking for the maximum sentence in this case, which could have been 20 years if the jury would have made him serve the two sentences consecutively.

The jury did sentence Reckley to the maximum penalty on each count of felony sexual abuse, but those terms will run concurrently. As a result, he will serve ten years and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Fort Thomas officers Zac Rohlfer, Derek Faught and Nathan Day were the Fort Thomas Police officers working the case. They were assisted by Officer Chad Martin from the Southgate Police Department, who said he heard the call come into dispatch and left his city to assist the officers in Fort Thomas.

The Fort Thomas Police involved with the case were omnipresent in the courtroom during the duration of the case.  Officer Day served as the Commonwealth's witness throughout the trial.

During the trial, witnesses testified that they saw the victim running in front of Highlands Middle School around 6:00 a.m. when Reckley came up from behind her and forced himself onto her.

Witnesses testified that the woman began to scream, kick and fight back. Others who heard the incident began to help and Reckley ran from the scene to a residence nearby.

During the original investigation, the officers talked to witnesses on the scene and began collecting evidence before getting a warrant for Reckley's arrest and later finding him at his home on Taylor Avenue at 12:53 p.m. that same day.

The officers also talked to the victim, confiscated her clothes for evidence and she later picked him out of a lineup, which was prepared by Detective Adam Noe of the Fort Thomas Police. Witnesses also picked out Reckley from that lineup with, according to police testimony, 100% certainty.

He was booked into the Campbell County Detention Center that same day at 3:26 p.m. on August 5, 2015.

Faught told Fort Thomas Matters that day that crimes like that are not typical in Fort Thomas. "We wanted to give peace of mind to the victim and the community that if you are going to attempt something like this in Fort Thomas you will be caught," said Faught. "(The crime) was pretty brazen, especially in front of the high school at 6:00 a.m."

"This is the best feeling that I've had as a police officer. To get enough evidence to have a warrant issued and make an arrest in one day. The community really helped make that happen," he said.

The Commonwealth was represented by Campbell County Assistant Prosecutor Denise Durbin and assisted by Mike Zimmerman.

She described the offense in her words to the 12-person jury, made up of six males and six females in her closing arguments.

“The defendant, Nicholas Reckley, has no alibi,” she started.

“He went to the (bar). Got drunk. Got a ride home, and got home at 3:30 a.m., before realizing he was locked out. So he makes his way to church parking lot and he sits. He waits. And waits. And he perches up on parking lot. Here she comes, his victim, she stops jogging. She’s walking. So he starts his way down the driveway. He won’t look at her.  He walks with purpose. He follows close. Too close. She gets in the street and continues walking. He continues. That’s when he runs up on her. Pushing, pulling. He gets a grip on her. Fighting him. She brings a knee to his face. That’s when he runs. He trips over the curb and scurries to the closest brush he could find. He runs back to church and hears commotion. Now there are people there to help and he can see what’s happening. He sees that his victim has help. His prey has help. He goes behind homes on Taylor Avenue and he waits. He’s behind a house where (police) cannot see him. He’s sweaty and still aroused, so he pleasures himself. Then he just strolls out of backyard and down the street back to his locked house and lies down on the deck to pass out. It’s now bright out. 11 a.m. He’s swamped in sweat. He finally gets his keys from sister and an hour or so later and hears the Fort Thomas Police banging on his door.”

Stefanie Durstock, Reckley’s attorney, tried to establish that the Fort Thomas Police didn’t handle evidence correctly. She also tried to discredit some of the witnesses’ testimony, by citing differences in the initial statements from their sworn testimony.

In 2011, Reckley had been found guilty of Burglary in the second degree, which was the reason for the additional Persistent Felony Offender charge. His father, who was the complaining witness in that case, testified that he had climbed in through the window of his home and had stolen some items that had sentimental value to his family to provide for his heroin habit.

A habit that, according to him, Reckley has now kicked.

“He was struggling with drugs, came in the window of deck and took some items from home. One of the items was my daughter’s necklace, so I called the Fort Thomas Police because I wanted help to try to find it from a pawnshop. I wanted him to spend a short time in jail to help him break his habits. I did not think he would have been charged as a felony,” he said.

“He’s been off heroin and was working full-time. That was a lot to improve on there.”

Durbin said she’s thrilled with the conviction and believes that Campbell County is a safer place because of it.

“This is an important conviction for sexual assault survivors,” she said. “Understanding that there are communities that will hold sexual offenders accountable is important to reducing these horrific crimes.”

Lt. Rich Whitford of the Fort Thomas Police Department agreed. He said that he was proud of his officers.

“This is teamwork. It’s our young officers in the department knowing our community. They were listening and knew what was going on with the residents here. This is an example of good old fashioned police work,” he said. “It’s rare that a felony trial goes all the way to the jury, but this is a big win.”

Fort Thomas Matters has chosen not to publish the name of the victim. She took the stand twice during the trial.

She said that she’s still very much affected by the sexual abuse.

“Every single time I woke up for three months after the incident, it was being hit from the back on that walk. It didn’t matter if it was a 10-minute nap or all night. The biggest change for my life was losing that time from 5:00 to 6:30 a.m. That was my time and it’s been robbed from me. That was my slot that no one interrupted and not having that sent me into the tailspin for the year. I have a lot of trouble leaving the driveway on my own now. I started my day for the last 25 years in the same way. It was an important time for me and its been taken away.”

Durbin asked the victim if she had been back to the site in front of Highlands Middle School where the assault occurred.

She hadn’t.

Durbin asked her why.

She took a deep breath and looked back at her.

“My legs just wont go there,” she said.

Reckley will be sentenced on November 30.

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