A convicted rapist’s attempt at appearing remorseful at his sentencing hearing on Thursday backfired and ended with him being dragged from the Smyth County Circuit Courtroom as he cursed at the judge.
Marcus Evan Contrath’s outburst came after Judge Deanis Simmons handed him two life sentences plus 90 years in prison. In December, Conrath pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and one count of sodomy of a teenage family member.
Before Simmons pronounced his sentence, Conrath addressed his victim and the family, saying that his actions “tormented” him.
“I’m sorry, guys, for all that I’ve done and I pray one day you can forgive me and not let bitterness hold you back,” he said.
Simmons took issue with Conrath’s reference to bitterness, saying Conrath made it sound “as if bitterness was inappropriate in this regard for you.”
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His words to the teen, Simmons said, were, “very telling.”
The judge said the teen had every right to feel bitter. Conrath, she said, was supposed to protect her, but he instead “committed an extreme betrayal.”
Conrath’s arrest came in February 2022 after the teen told police of the abuse. In an interview with Smyth County Investigator Tony McCormick, Conrath admitted to the offenses.
While delivering his sentence, Simmons reiterated her view again, saying that she did not believe that Conrath felt remorse for his actions.
“I hope that at some point, you recognize the severity of what you’ve done,” she said, to which Conrath replied, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
When Simmons told him there was no need for him to respond, Conrath said, “I don’t give a shit. I got life. Fuck you.”
As bailiffs removed Conrath from the courtroom and led him toward the holding cells, he repeated his statement several more times, directing it once at the family as one of them began to speak up during his outburst.
Prior to the disruption, the court heard from the teen and her mother.
The girl told her abuser that he had damaged her and taken away her innocence.
“You took a part of me that I can never get back,” she said, adding with conviction that she would not allow him to take anything else from her.
The girl’s mother said she thought before that she was protective of her children. That protective nature has since skyrocketed. She said she and her children now suffer from depression and anxiety. Her daughter, she said, often experiences flashbacks from which she has to be calmed.
The mother told Conrath, “I hope what you have done eats you up inside for the rest of your life.”
During arguments seeking each side’s desired outcome, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brendan Roche asked the court to impose “severe punishment.”
Defense Attorney Joseph Stiltner asked the judge for leniency and pushed for rehabilitation, saying that a psychosexual evaluation performed following his conviction suggested that Conrath had only a moderate risk to re-offend and a high potential for rehabilitation.
The defense attorney pointed to his client’s past and the availability of treatment. Conrath, he said, had come from a broken home, had himself been sexually abused at a young age, and had struggled with alcohol abuse and porn addiction.
Stiltner said his client understood that “the court has to punish,” but encouraged Simmons to also consider the resources for rehabilitation that are now available.
Roche countered that while the commonwealth recognized Conrath’s struggles, “that doesn’t lessen the impact of this crime.”
“Rehabilitation can take place, but we think it should take place after he serves his time in prison,” he added.
Stiltner said Conrath accepted responsibility for his actions and felt remorse. He pointed to the fact that he had been cooperative with police during the investigation and that he had pleaded guilty to the charges in court.
Roche, however, contended, “I would point out that there was no remorse until he got caught.”
Simmons said she was sorry that Conrath had experienced traumas in his life, but that “people make choices.”
They may choose to continue the cycle, or they may choose to break away from it, she said.
The judge also took issue with a portion of Conrath’s psychosexual evaluation, which noted that Conrath said that he solicited the teen and did not force or intimidate her to have sex with him.
To Simmons, that was just “semantics,” she said, adding that she believed the abuse was the result of intimidation as it began when the girl was only 11 years old.
Praising the teen’s intelligence and strength, Simmons told the girl she was proud of her.
Simmons said, “I want you to know that not everyone is like that and that you can lead a happy and healthy life and that none of this is your fault.”
Following Conrath’s outburst and abrupt departure from the courtroom, a stunned Stiltner requested a copy of the hearing transcript in case they were needed for appeal. Though a conviction stemming from a guilty plea is highly unlikely to be granted an appeal, sentences deemed harsh can be reviewed separately.