YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Youngstown man already in prison will have to serve at least 26 years behind bars after pleading guilty to raping a jail employee.
With a trial on rape and kidnapping charges set to begin, Rondell Harris told Judge Anthony D’Apolito he was no longer interested in a plea bargain. He also tried to fire his lawyer.
“I know what I did, I know what I didn’t do,” Harris said.
Harris had been accused of assaulting a Mahoning County Jail employee in March of last year while he’d been locked up on a vandalism charge. He had to be moved out of the jail and most recently was being housed at the Ohio Penitentiary on Youngstown’s East Side. Over the weekend, lawyers say he had agreed to plead guilty with a recommended sentence of at least 26 years.
“That’s the plea, that’s the offer, and that is what either you will accept today or you won’t,” Judge D’Apolito said.
In a profanity-filled rant, Harris claimed he was being railroaded but eventually took the deal.
“I accept your pleas of guilty. I find that they were made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily,” Judge D’Apolito said.
When it was her turn to speak, the victim told the judge she hasn’t worked since the assault happened and now suffers from post-traumatic stress.
“I am haunted with feelings of worthlessness, uncontrollable images of the attack gripping my mind. Depression, grief, anger, hate,” she said.
But throughout her statement, Harris sat muttering, rolling his eyes and calling her a liar.
“She’s just making a sob story,” Harris said.
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When he wouldn’t stop talking, the judge ordered him to be removed from the courtroom. Moments later, he returned, flashing an obscene gesture toward reporters.
He was sentenced and classified as a tier-3 sex offender, requiring him to register every 90 days for the rest of his life.
“You’ve damaged her but she’s stronger than that and she’ll come back, and you’ll be in prison for 26 years,” Judge D’Apolito said.