News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 29, 2012

Former pro boxer Terry Ray gets suspended prison term for sexual battery

TERRE HAUTE — A class-D felony conviction and an 18-month suspended prison term was the sentence imposed Tuesday on former professional boxer Terry Ray, who has admitted to sexual battery involving a teenager.

Ray pleaded guilty in January in Vigo Superior Court 3 to sexual battery, a lesser included offense of sexual misconduct with a minor, for his actions on Feb. 13, 2010, when he french-kissed a 14-year-old girl during a party at his home where teenagers were drinking alcohol.

The guilty plea set the sentencing at the discretion of Judge David Bolk, who could have entered the conviction as a class-A misdemeanor, allowing Ray to avoid a felony conviction and the subsequent loss of his employment with the Federal Bureau of Prisons penitentiary at Terre Haute.

The plea agreement also dismissed charges of child seduction and sexual battery, both class-D felonies, while reducing to a class-D felony the former class-C felony charge of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Ray, who has no prior criminal history, apologized to the victim and her family during the sentencing hearing, accepting blame for his actions. Ray said he was intoxicated on that evening and his judgment was impaired.

“I wish the best for this girl and her family,” Ray said, telling Bolk, “I promise you nothing like this will ever happen again.”

Ray is a former World Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion and a veteran of several nationally televised bouts.

Defense attorney Joseph Etling presented witnesses in support of Ray, who asked for the conviction to be a misdemeanor so Ray could keep his job. Etling said that the former world-class boxer has multiple health issues that will require expensive medical care in the future, and that the criminal case has financially ruined Ray, who has been on unpaid administrative leave since his arrest in March 2010.

Ray’s aunt, Sheila Tucker Kaperak, testified that her nephew has been living with her since last summer, and that he has gone through treatment for alcoholism. She said that Ray grew up with an alcoholic father, and that Ray has been a caring, loving nephew and a good father for his three children.

Ray’s sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous said he has also witnessed a transformation in Ray, who now tries to help others through their battle with alcohol.

And friend Billy Reese testified that he has volunteered with Ray to help disadvantaged youth learn to box, and has seen Ray donate equipment and time to help troubled youth through boxing.

The teenager’s father presented a different picture of Ray, however.

The girl’s father said his daughter’s life has changed drastically since the incident, and she has endured harsh criticism by her peers even though she is the victim of Ray’s actions.

“He knowingly violated her physically, but she is treated by her peers as if she asked for a 46-year-old man to make advances,” the father said. “He knew she was underage. He just didn’t care.”

The father said he agreed to the plea agreement to spare his daughter the stress of a jury trial. He said he knows that Ray will not have to register as a sex offender, but he feels that Ray “deserves a felony.”

The father was the only witness called to the stand by Special Prosecutor Timothy Bookwalter, who was appointed to handle the case after Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt recused himself from the case because of a family connection with Ray.

At the close of the sentencing hearing, Bolk commended Ray for admitting to his guilt in kissing the teenager, but he emphasized the circumstances that led to the incident.

Bolk told Ray that the incident occurred at his home where high school children were consuming alcohol, and that Ray showed up intoxicated. According to the probable cause affadavit filed as a result of a police investigation into the incident, Bolk said, Ray was the “life of the party” and that some children there reportedly made video of the incident, but erased it.

“By doing this act,” Bolk told Ray, “you set off a course of events that altered this girl’s life, as well as your own.”

Bolk said he had no basis for entering the conviction as a misdemeanor, and set the conviction as a class-D felony. He sentenced Ray to 18 months in the Department of Correction, but suspended it to formal probation, which requires random screening by the Vigo County Alcohol and Drug Program and completion of an addictions program. Bolk also ordered Ray to continue therapy with a psychologist, and to attend two self-help meetings per month during his probation.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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