Walla Walla rapist loses court appeal

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WALLA WALLA — The state Court of Appeals has rejected a local man’s contention that his guilty pleas to two rapes are invalid.

Joshua A. Rutherford, 21, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to having sex with a teenage, female acquaintance without her consent about three years earlier and with an underage girl in 2010.

The plea hearing was presided over by then-Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht, who later sentenced Rutherford to two years and 10 months in prison. Schacht has since retired.

Rutherford appealed, claiming that at the plea hearing Schacht failed to inform him of the specific constitutional rights he was forfeiting by pleading guilty.

In an opinion filed Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court based in Spokane rejected Rutherford’s claim and affirmed the validity of his guilty pleas.

The panel found that during the plea hearing, Rutherford said he understood he was giving up certain constitutional rights, which are listed in the plea statement he had also signed.

“The (judge) was not required to restate the constitutional rights being waived to confirm Mr. Rutherford’s understanding of the plea,” the Court of Appeals opinion says.

Also, the panel upheld Schacht’s assessment of $1,767.50 in costs and fees Rutherford will have to pay. Rutherford maintained in his appeal that his future ability to pay the financial obligations isn’t supported by the record.

But the opinion states, “The record provides a sufficient factual basis to determine that Mr. Rutherford could pay (the obligations) because he was employable, had little debt, and was able to provide for himself.”

He pleaded guilty April 9, 2012, to a third-degree rape charge for having sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old girl without her consent in the summer of 2009.

He also pleaded guilty to third-degree rape of a child for having sex in the summer of 2010 with a girl who was 14 years old.

Both of the offenses — which weren’t reported to police until the spring of 2011 — took place at a residence in the area of the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, according to police.

Rutherford was acquainted with both of the girls, officials said.

He currently is incarcerated at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

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

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