Former wrestler to serve jail time

Former wrestler to serve jail time

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A former PSU wrestler was resentenced to two to four years for a 5-year-old rape. His first sentence was deemed too lenient.

A former Penn State wrestler convicted of an August 1999 sexual assault was resentenced yesterday to serve two to four years in Centre County Prison and ordered to register as a convicted sexual offender.

In 2001, a jury convicted Jean M. Celestin of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old female Penn State student. Charges of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse against Celestin were later dropped.

Another Penn State wrestler implicated in the case, Nathan Parker, was cleared of charges at the trial. The victim testified that she went to Parker's apartment after a night of drinking and awoke to find Celestin and Parker having sex with her.

Following the conviction, Judge Thomas Kistler deviated from standard sentencing guidelines and handed down a six-to-12-month sentence to be served in Centre County Prison. Pennsylvania guidelines for sexual assault call for a three-to-six-year sentence to be served in a state penitentiary.

District Attorney Ray Gricar, calling the original sentence too lenient, appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which in May 2003 ordered Kistler to resentence Celestin in line with established guidelines.

During yesterday's hearing, Assistant District Attorney Lance Marshall read a written statement from the victim in which she said the assault had prevented her graduation from Penn State.

"She'll never know what type of person she could have become if she graduated college," Marshall said.

Celestin's attorney, Joseph Devecka, requested a sentence of 24 months before Celestin spoke to Kistler and a full courtroom, including about 15 of Celestin's family members and supporters.

"I'm sad to be here, and I'm nervous to be here. It feels like living life in a hostage situation. There is never any closure. I just want it all to be over," Celestin said.

Kistler said he still felt the original sentence of six to 12 months was appropriate, citing "rehabilitative qualities" in Celestin, before saying the Pennsylvania Superior Court's ruling left him no choice but to stiffen the sentence.

Celestin will also be required to pay a fine, make restitution to Penn State and have no contact with the victim. In registering as a convicted sexual offender, Celestin must submit a DNA sample and notify law enforcement of his address for the rest of his life.

By sentencing Celestin to Centre County Prison as opposed to a state prison, Kistler said he hoped Celestin would "begin the process of returning to the community," citing a work-release program in which he will be able to participate.

Gricar said he was surprised and disappointed with Kistler's ruling, particularly the decision to incarcerate Celestin in county prison instead of a state penitentiary.

"There is nothing in the history of this case to justify a mitigated-range sentence. I am concerned the effect of this sentence is to minimize the seriousness of the crime. It is too lenient in its length, and the fact that he put a state offender in our county jail minimizes the crime of sexual assault," Gricar said.

Gricar emphasized that despite his disagreement with the sentence, the ruling by Kistler could not be appealed.

In an interview following the hearing, Kistler said the fact that Celestin was pursuing an education and was involved in extracurricular activities, such as Black Caucus, were partial reasons he felt Celestin could be rehabilitated. He said the sentence would be an adequate deterrent to other people committing the crime.

"The facts are he was involved [in the sexual assault] for a minute or two and will spend two to four years in prison," Kistler said.

The victim eventually withdrew from Penn State, and in 2002 filed a lawsuit against the university. The lawsuit, which Penn State settled out of court, alleged that the university failed to protect the victim from harassment by friends of Celestin and Parker and caused her to fear for her safety.

As part of the settlement, Penn State agreed to evaluate its harassment policies and awarded a $17,500 settlement to the victim. Penn State spokesman Steve MacCarthy said at the time of the settlement that it wasn't intended to be an admission of liability, but a way to avoid extensive legal costs that would have resulted from the lawsuit.