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Former Virginia Tech student resolves two sexual assault cases with plea deal

Protesters at Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting

Protesters attended the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting Nov. 7 over the university’s current plan to address sexual assaults.

CHRISTIANSBURG — A former Virginia Tech student this week resolved a pair of years-old sexual assault cases in a plea agreement that left him with probation and a suspended prison sentence, along with two felony convictions and a requirement to register on Virginia’s sex offender list.

Joshua Liam McCormick’s appearance Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court came about a month after Tech President Tim Sands formed a working group to address increased reports of sexual violence on and around campus. After the new group was announced, protesters attended a Board of Visitors meeting to demand more student and faculty representation in the working group.

McCormick, now 22, was charged with rape, two counts of animate object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy and strangulation connected to separate incidents that occurred in October 2017 and October 2018. In both cases, McCormick was accused of meeting a fellow Tech student at a wine mixer event, taking her back to his apartment and performing sexual acts despite the women telling him to stop.

McCormick insisted the encounters were consensual.

According to court records, the victim in the 2018 incident initially accused McCormick in the university’s student conduct system, leading to Tech suspending him. He also was dismissed from his fraternity due to the woman’s account, court records said.

McCormick left Tech and returned to New York, where he had grown up, and enrolled in the state university system there, court records said. He has been undergoing counseling, court records said.

The accusation from the 2017 incident came later, after the victim in that case met the woman involved in the 2018 incident, McCormick’s attorney, Rob Dean of Roanoke, wrote in a court filing.

The Roanoke Times does not identify the victims of sexual assault without their consent.

In October, McCormick had a jury trial in Montgomery County on the 2018 accusation. It ended in a mistrial after jurors could not agree on a verdict. He had not yet been tried on the 2017 charges.

On Monday, McCormick’s parents escorted him into a hearing where he pleaded guilty to two counts of animate object sexual penetration. The remaining charges were dropped.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rachel Shrader summarized the prosecution’s evidence, noting that in both incidents, the women said that they blacked out or felt funny after McCormick brought them a cup of wine, and that they tried to tell him no as he undressed them.

Judge Robert Turk imposed a sentence recommended in the plea agreement: two 20-year prison terms to run concurrently with all of the time suspended for 20 years. McCormick is to be on supervised probation for five years and unsupervised probation for 15 years, Turk ordered.

McCormick is to register as a sex offender and receive sex offender treatment, can have no contact with the victims or their families, and is barred from Tech property while his sentence is suspended, Turk said.

Sentencing guidelines recommended a term of incarceration between 15 years and seven months and 33 years and five months. In a court filing, prosecutors said that the request for a lesser punishment was influenced by the October mistrial, and that both victims had OK’d the agreement.

“Both charges were credibility issues between parties. No independent witnesses,” prosecutors noted in a court filing.

In court, Dean said that McCormick was ready to close this chapter of his life.

Turk said that he would allow McCormick to return to his home in New York but that he would have to arrange to have his case transferred to a probation office there. If for some reason that is not approved, the judge said, McCormick would have to live in Virginia.

 

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