Man jailed in assault at Walla Walla motel

But Eliah J. Nick maintains he did nothing wrong last summer. He originally was accused of rape.

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WALLA WALLA -- An unapologetic Lewiston, Idaho, man was sentenced Monday to 90 days in jail after previously pleading guilty to a charge that he assaulted a woman at a Walla Walla motel last summer.

Eliah J. Nick, 27, denied committing any crime, but was ordered to serve the high end of the one- to three-month standard range he faced by entering the guilty plea March 23 to third-degree assault. The charge was reduced from an initial charge of second-degree rape.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann is allowing Nick to serve the time in Idaho's Nez Perce County Jail -- in partial confinement for work release -- starting within two weeks. However, Lohrmann rejected Nick's request to convert the time to weekend work crew assignments.

Lohrmann gave Nick credit for two days he previously served in the Walla Walla County Jail and placed him on a year of community custody, a form of probation, when he's released.

Nick initially was accused of forcing the woman to have sexual intercourse with him July 30 in the room in which he was staying at the Capri Motel, 2003 Melrose St.

But he claimed the intercourse was consensual, and afterward the woman and a companion wanted him to go to a cash machine and get them money. Nick was arrested, but was released on bail. He reportedly was in the area finishing up a work assignment for a railroad company.

At Monday's sentencing hearing, he and his attorney, Gail Siemers, steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Siemers acknowledged Nick was drunk the night of the reported rape and "had company" with the woman. But "Mr. Nick did not assault the young lady and a sexual assault did not occur," Siemers told Lohrmann.

Siemers added that Nick would have preferred taking the case to trial, but didn't want to risk the possibility of a rape conviction. When Nick pleaded guilty to the reduced assault charge, he didn't admit guilt, but acknowledged the prosecution has evidence that could convict him.

Siemers said Monday Nick entered the guilty plea for the sake of himself, his wife and children.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Mulhern told Lohrmann the woman "has been pretty devastated by what happened to her" and is convinced she was sexually assaulted. Mulhern added she agreed to reduce the charge, partially to spare the woman from the emotional trauma of testifying at a trial.

Lohrmann told Nick he was fortunate to have received the plea offer and realizes he contends he is innocent. "But a guilty plea is a guilty plea and I have to view that as a crime that was committed and for which punishment is appropriate," Lohrmann said.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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