WINCHESTER — A Shenandoah University student who sexually assaulted a fellow student in a dormitory room in 2017 will serve up to a year in jail.
In a plea bargain on Tuesday in Winchester Circuit Court, Kelly Thomas Reagan was convicted of two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and was sentenced to two years with one year suspended. Upon release, he will be on one year of unsupervised probation and must have no contact with the victim while on probation. Thomas won’t have to register as a sex offender, but he must enter his DNA into a database.
Thomas, 20, of the 2300 block of Jolly Rodger Drive in Greenville, was originally charged with rape and aggravated sexual battery, both felonies. He pleaded under the Alford doctrine in which a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but concedes the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction.
The assault happened on Sept. 20, 2017, in Reagan’s dormitory room, where the woman had gone to watch a movie, according to Heather D. Hovermale, Winchester deputy commonwealth’s attorney. The woman, who was taking Lexapro, an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant which has side effects that include drowsiness, said she fell asleep. When she awoke, she found semen on her thighs. She immediately reported the incident to police and underwent a rape kit.
DNA testing showed the semen belonged to Reagan, but Hovermale said he initially denied having sex with the woman before saying it was consensual. Hovermale told Judge Alexander R. Iden that it was a “difficult decision” not to try the case. She said it was because no medical expert could be found who would testify why the woman didn’t wake up while being assaulted.
“After consulting with the victim, we determined that rather than risk the possibility of a jury concluding that that amounted to reasonable doubt, that we would prefer that he was held accountable for his actions by entering into this plea agreement,” Hovermale said in an interview after the sentencing. “The commonwealth does not feel that the sentence meets the crime. However, given the nature of the evidence, we felt that this was better than to risk no conviction.”
Defense attorney Phillip S. Griffin II told Iden that despite Reagan entering into the agreement, there was reasonable doubt that he assaulted the woman. He said the woman didn’t seek a protective order, and she and Reagan continued to live across the hall from one another for six weeks after she accused Reagan. Griffin said a trial would’ve been “long and ugly” and that Reagan will suffer “long-term consequences” from his conviction.
In an interview, Griffin said Reagan never denied having sex with the woman. Griffin said when police first questioned Reagan, they asked if him if anything “interesting” had happened involving the woman and he said no.
In addition to a police investigation, the university investigated the assault. Griffin said he didn’t know the conclusion of the investigation and Hovermale deferred comments to the university.
Rebecca Layne, a university spokeswoman, wouldn’t say in an email what the conclusion of the investigation was. She said Reagan is no longer a student at SU.
Under the Clery Act, a federal transparency law regarding campus crime, SU reported two rapes in 2017.