Less than a week before his trial was to begin, a Maryland man accused of indecently assaulting a sleeping woman pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to charges incurred over last year’s State Patty’s Day weekend.
State College police arrested Justin Blake, 22, of Newburg, Md., last March on felony burglary, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, criminal trespass and two indecent assault charges. Investigators accused Blake of entering the woman’s unlocked apartment, getting in bed with her and performing sex acts on her when she was asleep.
The woman thought Blake was her boyfriend but after hearing his voice, she knew he wasn’t and demanded that he leave, according to the criminal complaint. Blake refused and the woman eventually got out of her room and woke her roommates, who got him to leave, according to police.
The women then contacted police and provided them with a description and police said they found Blake across the street from the apartment.
Blake entered open guilty pleas to all charges except an indecent assault of an unconscious person count before Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson on Thursday. He entered a no contest plea to the other charge.
Prosecutors dropped a rape charge added after Blake’s preliminary hearing before the Thursday pleas because District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said the sexual assault guilty plea covered the same conduct as that charge.
Williamson will determine Blake’s fate at sentencing, the date of which is yet to be determined. The judge advised Blake on Thursday that he could face between 27 and 54 years in prison before the pleas were entered.
Williamson revoked Blake’s bail after the pleas were entered and Blake was taken to Centre County Correctional Facility.
Blake’s case is involved in the ongoing courthouse controversy involving Centre County government, courthouse officials and the state Right-to-Know law.
Sean McGraw, Blake’s attorney, filed a motion in March asking Williamson to dismiss the charges against Blake because he argued alleged ex parte communications between Parks Miller, former Assistant District Attorney Nathan Boob, District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker and Judge Bradley P. Lunsford on days of proceedings involving Blake presented a “grave appearance of bias.”
McGraw entered phone records, obtained through Right-to-Know requests with Centre County government, as exhibits to the motion that showed the presence of calls and text messages, but not their content. Parks Miller said in March that the mere presence of contact does not imply misconduct because prosecutors and judges are in regular contact about warrants, arrests and other legal matters.
Parks Miller and Gillette-Walker filed lawsuits against the county, with McGraw and the law firm where he works, the Law Office of Andrew Shubin, listed as co-defendants, over the release of the communications records. They argued that the release of the records violated the state Right-to-Know law, the separation of powers doctrine of the state and U.S. Constitution and their privacy rights and asked for an injunction preventing the county from producing any records in the future.
Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz, specially presiding over the cases, ruled in favor of Parks Miller and Gillette-Walker in June and entered an order stating county government had no right to release the records and granting the injunction in May.
McGraw later argued to have Parks Miller disqualified from hearing Blake’s case at a hearing before Williamson in April, arguing that the firm’s involvement in the suit created a conflict of interest. Parks Miller maintained that there was not a conflict because the suit was directed at McGraw and Shubin, not Blake.
Williamson denied that motion after the hearing.
After sentencing, McGraw said he was pleased that the rape charge was dropped because he didn’t want his client to be charged with a crime the evidence did not fully support.
“Now that he is not, we’re ready to proceed with sentencing,” McGraw said.
Parks Miller said she was “extremely happy” with the pleas because it would save the woman Blake pleaded guilty to assaulting from testifying at trial.
“Any time we get a full guilty result without having a trial, it’s a win,” she said.