The court convicted a Box Elder man of rape Tuesday after the man decided to forego a jury trial in favor of an agreement that the judge described as “unusual.”
Toby Rolfe, 44, didn’t plead guilty to his charge of third-degree rape, but he consented to the judge’s issuing a verdict based on information presented to the grand jury.
“This is an unusual situation,” Judge Robert Mandel said at the Pennington County Courthouse on Tuesday morning. He described the hearing as a “stipulated facts trial,” using the transcript of Rolfe’s grand jury indictment.
Rolfe’s lawyer, Ellery Grey, said his client entered into the agreement to prevent a jury trial and preserve his right to an appeal.
Authorities accuse Rolfe and another man of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman at Rolfe’s home in 2016 after she consumed a drink at his place and passed out. The prosecutor has told the court it holds “overwhelming” evidence against the defendants, including people who witnessed the assault and the victim being found at the scene.
Rolfe’s co-defendant, Marvin Payne, 50, pleaded guilty in October to being an accessory to a crime. The Colorado man admitted taking cellphone photos as Rolfe allegedly molested the woman, an acquaintance they invited to party at Rolfe’s place.
Rolfe has maintained his innocence and was originally set for a three-day trial starting Tuesday morning. Payne had agreed to testify against Rolfe, whose third-degree rape charge carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
Under Rolfe’s agreement with the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor will recommend no more than eight years in prison, the judge was told Tuesday. Afterward, Mandel reminded Rolfe that the court wasn’t bound by the agreement and that the sentencing decision rests with the judge.
Rolfe is scheduled to be sentenced in February. Payne’s sentencing hasn’t been scheduled; he faces up to five years in prison for being an accessory. Each man is free on bond.