By Joe Olenick
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
LOCKPORT — It’s unknown if a suspended Niagara County Sheriff’s deputy will return to work, following his sentencing Wednesday in Lockport City Court.
Kevin J. Rohde, 31, was granted a one year conditional discharge for endangering the welfare of a child. Rohde pleaded guilty to the charge in Feburary, a charge which stems from an incident that took place with a 15-year-old girl in March 1999. Rohde was given youthful offender status, as he was 18-years-old at the time.
City Court Judge William J. Watson ordered Rhode to pay a $200 fine and to be screened by a certified mental health counselor. The judge noted that both sides agreed to the sentence, something that’s not very common.
“Everyone is in agreement, which doesn’t always happen,” Watson said. “The only two people who know what happened are also in agreement.”
Watson added that he hoped the families for both Rohde and the victim would be able to put their lives back together. Both sides were present in the courtroom Wednesday.
Prosecutor Aaron F. Glazer called the plea deal “the best both sides could have hoped for.” He added that prior to Rhode taking the plea in February, he had been ready to take the case to the grand jury and seek a first-degree rape charge.
“There was a lot of risk in this case for both sides,” Glazer said. “For the prosecution, there was very little evidence and for the defense there was the risk of taking it to trial, which could have had very serious consequences.”
If Rhode had been found guilty of first-degree rape, Glazer said, he could have been sentenced to a minimum of five years in state prison to a maximum of 25 years.
“Those are pretty big dice to roll,” Glazer said.
Rohde would see a year behind bars if he were to violate the conditional discharge. A conditional discharge keeps a person out of jail provided they adhere to conditions set by the court, such as staying away from the victim and obeying the law.
Rohde’s plea was an “Alford plea,” or a non-admission plea, where the defendant agrees to a deal, but one that does not involve an admission from the defendant. With the Alford plea, however, the defendant admits there is sufficient evidence to convict.
Glazer said the decision to allow Rohde to go back to work was solely up to Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour. Voutour did not return a call seeking comment.
In February, Rohde’s attorney, George V.C. Muscato, said his client wanted to get back to work as soon as possible. Rohde has been a sheriff’s deputy for eight years, receiving an award from the sheriff’s office in 2006.
While they may agree on the sentence, the victim’s family doesn’t agree on that.
The father of the victim said the entire affair has been difficult for his daughter and family. And while he was happy with the sentence, he does not want Rhode to return to the sheriff’s department.
“We’re comfortable with it, although we would’ve like to see jail time,” the father said. “Our goal is to make sure he doesn’t get his job back.”