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Guilty Pleas Entered In Rape Case

Dennis L. Park

MAYVILLE — A Conewango man pleaded guilty in Chautauqua County Court on Tuesday morning to charges of first-degree rape and first-degree criminal sex act for incidents that took place in July 2018.

Dennis L. Park is facing a total of 18 years in a state prison when sentenced March 9, 2020, before County Court Judge David Foley. The guilty pleas were entered shortly before Park was set to go to trial for the second after a mistrial was declared in August.

The sexual assault charges stem from two incidents in 2018. In both cases, two women said Park assaulted them while brandishing a knife.

“The District Attorney’s Office is very satisfied with the guilty plea and the projected sentence,” said John Zuroski, chief assistant district attorney. “We credit the work of the Jamestown Police Department and the victims for their bravery and coming forward.”

One victim claimed the 35-year-old Park “rushed” her in a Jamestown laundromat on July 17, 2018, and forced her at knifepoint to perform oral sex. Another woman alleged that Park forced her on July 11, 2018, to provide sexual acts behind a city factory near Chandler Street in exchange for safety.

“I plead guilty, your honor,” Park said to Foley on the charges.

Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone told The Post-Journal that given the circumstances, the offer from the DA’s office was a “fair deal.” Barone said had Park been convicted on all three charges, he could have faced up to 50 years in prison.

“In theory, he could have spent the rest of his life in prison,” Barone said.

Park is also facing 25 years of post-release supervision.

Barone believed the mistrial in August played a role in the offer from the District Attorney’s Office.

“This has been a lengthy process,” he said. “It’s been on the calendar for over a year now, and so, with all due deference to the alleged victims, it’s still very difficult for the defendant who’s been incarcerated for the last year on a daily basis having to prepare, think about this and then we go to trial over the summer and it resulted, of course, in the mistrial. It’s emotionally draining not only for the alleged victims but it’s emotionally draining for the defendant. We (attorneys) do this for a living so we’re accustomed to it and it worked out favorably, the mistrial, for the defense, but at the same time you have to take into consideration a number of things when you consider a plea and ultimately the decision to plead guilty to anything is the defendant’s decision.”

Foley declared the mistrial in August after testimony, describing an oral swab that tested positive for human DNA, was given by a forensic analyst in front of the jury. Foley ruled that certain remarks made by the analyst referencing a rape kit from the July 17 incident that was compiled by a different official, a serologist, were hearsay.

Foley referred to the mistrial as “unfortunate” on Tuesday. He said the current offer was “very fair,” adding that the court preferred to “not have the alleged victims come in here and testify again.”

Barone noted that the serologist whom was unavailable to for the initial trial was available for the retrial, which strengthened the prosecution’s case.

“I thought that was going to be significant when the jury considered the evidence,” he said.

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