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Man to serve 26 years for brutal 2018 assault in Charlottesville
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Man to serve 26 years for brutal 2018 assault in Charlottesville

A man convicted of a brutal assault and attempted rape of a Charlottesville woman will serve 26 years behind bars.

Mario Jarman Hodges, 48, who has no official address listed in court records, was arrested in August 2018 and charged with abduction with the intent to defile, attempted rape, malicious wounding and providing false identification to law enforcement following a vicious assault on the woman.

According to evidence presented in earlier hearings, the woman was attacked by Hodges while walking home from work on Rose Hill Drive on Aug. 20, 2018. Hodges tackled the woman to the ground, choked her and told her he was going to rape her, according to evidence previously introduced by the commonwealth.

The woman tried to fight back but was punched several times in the face before feigning unconsciousness, at which point Hodges picked her up by the throat and carried her to an alleyway.

After Hodges slammed her head into an air conditioning unit, the woman again screamed for help, prompting a man who lived nearby to come outside and call the police. Hodges then ran away toward the Downtown Mall. He was soon located and arrested by city police and has remained behind bars since.

Earlier this year, Hodges accepted a plea agreement that lessened the abduction with intent to defile to simple abduction, which carries a significantly smaller maximum sentence than the life sentence maximum carried by the previous charge. Hodges entered an Alford plea for attempted rape, which indicates that he maintains his innocence but acknowledges the commonwealth had enough evidence to convict him.

On Wednesday, a shackled Hodges appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing, much of which focused on his mental health and criminal history.

The sole witness called Wednesday was Dr. Sharon Kelley from the University of Virginia’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy. Kelley testified to several evaluations she had given Hodges, who previously exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia and delusions.

According to Kelley, when Hodges was arrested, he had delusions of being a man named Jose and believed he was older than he is and working different professions. After being prescribed antipsychotic medication against his will following his arrest, Hodges’ symptoms, such as delusions and hearing nonexistent voices, vanished and he has been doing better, she said.

Hodges’ description of the assault largely matched the police report, Kelley said, though Hodges said he did not tell the woman that he planned to rape her. Per Hodges, he had mistaken the woman for a man who, along with another man, had attacked him earlier that same day.

“In his mind, he thought he was retaliating against someone he had been in a fight with earlier rather than assaulting a stranger on the street,” Kelley said.

Kelley described the attack as an impulsive action, but not an irresistible action due to the way Hodges fled when a bystander approached.

During the argument portion of the hearing, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania pointed to Hodges’ behavior during the attack, particularly how he moved the survivor out of the street and out of view.

Platania also presented a previous conviction for sexual assault Hodges received in Kansas in 1995. Though the details of that case were not fully available, Platania said the previous conviction indicated Hodges was likely to similarly offend again.

“This is a tough case all around and it’s a horrible case all around,” Platania said. “But sometimes less said is more.”

Platania requested an active sentence of 25 years, which, when factoring in time already served, would mean the 48-year-old Hodges would be released around the time he was 70.

Hodges’ attorney, Liz Murtagh of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defenders Office, also described the case as “horrible” and expressed sympathy for the survivor’s physical and mental anguish.

However, punishment is only one of the factors the court must look at, Murtagh said; the court must also take into consideration Hodges’ mental state at the time of the attack. Hodges was suffering from severe delusions at the time, Murtagh said, and has since received treatment.

“But for his mental illness, this event would not have occurred,” Murtagh said.

Murtagh requested an active sentence of 6.5 years, closer to the middle ground of the sentencing guidelines.

After an approximate half-hour break, Judge Richard E. Moore returned to sentence Hodges. Before the sentence was announced, Hodges was given the chance to speak.

Lowering his navy blue mask below his chin, Hodges apologized to the survivor and said he did not intend to harm her.

“But I went looking for a fight and I found one,” he said. “I know about being a victim and that anger and pain.”

After Hodges finished, Moore summarized the case and walked the defendant through his reasoning. Citing evidence previously introduced, Moore said he was particularly concerned by how Hodges had followed the survivor before attacking her. Moore said this behavior did not square with the claims that the attack had been an impulsive act.

Moore said he was particularly concerned with Hodges’ Alford plea for the attempted rape, which he said showed a denial of responsibility. Given Hodges’ previous conviction of sexual assault, Moore said he was concerned that if he delivered a light sentence, then a third woman would be attacked.

“In a case like this, I have to determine how much risk should the court ask the public to bear,” Moore said. “My answer is not much.”

Hodges’ attack forever altered the survivor’s life, he said, and though he believed Hodges was sorry for his actions, that did not erase what he had done.

Moore sentenced Hodges to 40 years: 20 years with five suspended for malicious wounding; 10 years with four suspended for attempted rape; and 10 years with five suspended for simple abduction.

Upon release, Hodges will be subject to five years of supervised probation and will not be allowed to ever contact the survivor. The 14 years of suspended time is conditional on 40 years of good behavior and mandatory sex offender registration every 30 days with the Virginia State Police.

“While no sentence can ever fully address the horrific trauma suffered by [the survivor], this proceeding hopefully brings her some measure of closure and allows her to move on with her life,” Platania said in a written statement following the hearing.

Murtagh disagreed with the court's decision, describing it as a "particularly harsh" sentence imposed on a severely mentally ill man.

"There will be no opportunities for real mental health treatment during the 26 years Mr. Hodges is in prison," Murtagh said. "I do not think Mr. Hodges' mental illness was taken into account as mitigation by the prosecutor in recommending or the judge in imposing the sentence."

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