The woman who tried to cover up an affair by claiming she was sexually assaulted by a court-appointed counseling client gave up her fight Thursday.
Cindy Brumbaugh, 51, of Howard, was set to go to trial on charges of unsworn falsification to authorities, making false reports incriminating another and making false reports of an incident that did not occur.
The jury was in the jury room. The prosecution had a screen set up to present evidence. But at 9 a.m., instead of opening arguments, the court heard the defendant enter a last-minute no contest plea.
That means that Brumbaugh did not admit guilt, but did acknowledge the facts of the commonwealth’s case. For purposes of sentencing, it is treated as a guilty plea.
It was an open plea, meaning Brumbaugh did not bargain with Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s office for a lower charge or a particular punishment. No sentencing recommendations were attached to the plea.
It was also not the first plea Brumbaugh has entered in the case. Another no contest was entered in March, but Brumbaugh withdrew that plea in May. Potter County Judge John B. Leete, who was imported to hear the case, cautioned the defense that this probably would be the final plea permitted.
“This could be, to say the least, extremely reluctant to allow you to withdraw it,” he said.
Defense attorney Stephanie Cooper helped Brumbaugh, who is visually impaired, prepare the written statement presented to the court, but the former counselor who worked with people sent to counseling as part of their sentences had a hard time listening to the list of charges against her. She cried audibly as Parks Miller read the facts of the case.
The story started in March 2013, when the man in question was assigned to Actions Counseling, Brumbaugh’s business. They began a relationship and, in July 2013, took a romantic trip to Shamokin Dam after she told her husband she was away with a friend.
That unraveled when a car accident brought the relationship to light, with Brumbaugh eventually trying to hide it by saying the man had forced her to go with him. Text messages told a different story.
When the judge asked Brumbaugh if she contested any of the prosecution’s facts, she acted confused. She cried, saying “I just don’t think everything was considered,” but ultimately said she didn’t challenge any of the information.
She will be sentenced Aug. 14. According to Leete, she could face a penalty of up to 5 years in jail and $12,500 in fines.
“We were confident in our case,” said Parks Miller, who called the last-minute plea “frustrating” due to wasted time and resources.
“The defendant’s actions initiated a full-on sexual assault investigation into a man she knew was completely innocent. She was willing to burn 30 years of his life in a maniacal effort to put out the fire she set on her own,” Parks Miller said. “She was willing to see her patient prosecuted for kidnapping and rape to simply hide that she had an extramarital affair with him so she could preserve her counseling license and her income.”
Brumbaugh’s attorney declined to comment.