An Easthampton, Mass. man could spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury found him guilty of statutory rape. According to Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Linda Pisano, however, the DA’s office typically recommends a penalty of three to five years in state prison in such cases. Massachusetts law gives discretion to the court, stating that the defendant can be sentenced “for life or for any term of years.” Several factors go into the court’s sentencing decision.
Statutory Rape Charges
The jury found David Fried Oppenheim, the director of a performing arts center, guilty on five statutory rape charges, concluding he had a sexual relationship with a participant in a program at the center beginning when the victim was 14 years old. In Massachusetts, children who are under 16 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse with the defendant. Defendants cannot use consent as a defense to statutory rape charges. The law says that children under 16 are incapable of consent.
In Massachusetts, anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 – regardless of the child’s alleged consent – or who sexually abuses a child can be found guilty of rape and abuse of a child. This offense, commonly known as the Massachusetts Statutory Rape Law, is one of several Massachusetts sex crimes against children. Another major offense is indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.
Pisano told the Gazette that the recommended sentence for statutory rape can be doubled in cases where there are aggravating factors, but the DA’s office had not yet decided on its recommended sentence at the time of the jury verdict. It is likely that the penalties will be aggravated in this case because of the significant age difference between the defendant and victim.
Individuals who have been charged with sex crimes such as statutory rape should seek legal representation by a skilled criminal defense attorney who will protect their rights and raise all available defenses on their behalf.