Nicholas Sutton's life has been spiraling downward for the last two years, his attorney Patrick Dichiro said.
Sutton, 24, of Mentor, had lost two jobs -- one working at a family member's restaurant, his fiancee left him and he filed for bankruptcy after racking up $20,000 in debt.
All of this went back to drug abuse, Dichiro said. Sutton began with the Prozac he received for his depression. Then he moved onto prescription opiates and heroin.
Dichiro said Sutton had used a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol before going to a house party on April 15 on Cedarwood Drive in Mentor.
At the party, Sutton molested a sleeping woman. Sutton claimed that he had blacked out and did not remember the incident.
Sutton was initially charged with rape. However, that charge was dismissed and he pleaded to a lesser charge of gross sexual imposition in November.
The victim approved the plea bargain.
On Thursday, Lake County Court of Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci sentenced Sutton.
Lucci could have given Sutton to up 18 months in prison. Instead, the judge decided to give him a shorter jail sentence that emphasized drug treatment.
"I'm going to give you a chance and not heap the maximum penalty on you," Lucci said. "But I'm going to keep you on a very short leash."
Lucci admitted that he was conflicted about the decision. He noted that Sutton had committed the most serious example of gross sexual imposition. Additionally, Sutton had already gone to drug treatment programs but did not stay sober afterward.
Lucci said the fact that Sutton had no previous felony or misdemeanor convictions ultimately persuaded him to give less than the maximum possible punishment.
Sutton has already spent 48 days in jail awaiting his sentencing. Lucci ordered him to spend another 60 days in Lake County Jail. While there, he will go through the jail's drug treatment program.
Then Sutton will go to NEOCAP, another treatment program in Warren, OH. After completing NEOCAP, Sutton will return to Lake County Jail for 30 more days.
Next, he will be released on probation for four years. However, he will have several restrictions that the judge mandated. Those restrictions include:
- Sutton cannot leave the state of Ohio without the court's permission.
- He cannot have any alcohol and will be subject to random tests.
- He will not be allowed out of his home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- He must have a full-time job or be a full-time student or some combination thereof.
- He cannot work anywhere that serves alcohol.
- He must live at his parents' house and abide by their rules.
"If you move out of your parents' house, you're moving into the penitentiary," Lucci said.
Sutton spoke during during his hearing. He apologized to the victim -- who did not attend the sentencing -- and attributed his bad decisions to drug addiction.
Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Jenny Azouri had asked that Sutton receive the maximum possible penalty. She questioned his remorse.
She said that, during Sutton's presentencing interviews, he did not acknowledge the consequences of his actions for the victim.
"The victim was violated by a stranger while she was sleeping," she said.
As part of his punishment, Sutton was named a Tier I Sexual Offender. He will have to register where he lives and works with his local sheriff's office for the next 15 years.