Nearly two years after receiving a 100-year sentence for sexually abusing three children, a Westminster man received the same sentence Thursday.
Nicholas Adam Derita Jr., 50, of Westminster, was sentenced initially to 185 years in prison with all but 100 years suspended on June 24, 2013. A jury convicted him of abusing three children for nearly six years, beginning when the children were 4, 5 and 6. But the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland vacated Derita's sentence last September because of comments made by Judge Michael M. Galloway.
Thursday, Galloway issued an identical sentence, sending Derita back to the state Department of Corrections.
"This was a case where he scared the victims — scared them into submission — threatened them and caused them to be silent for years about what happened to them," said Senior Assistant State's Attorney Amy Blank Ocampo.
In announcing the sentencing in 2013, Galloway discussed the seriousness of the case, the impact it had on the victims and the probable continued impact.
He concluded by saying: "I think that as a practical matter, perhaps the biggest mitigating factor that we could have had at sentencing was the fact if [Derita] had elected not to put [the victims through reliving the abuse]. I think he had an opportunity to work out an agreement in advance of trial, which probably would have resulted in him serving less time than the court is going to impose today."
In reviewing Derita's case, the Court of Special Appeals found Galloway's language could have implied a so-called trial penalty: the imposition of a harsher sentence because the defendant exercised his constitutional right to a trial.
"The reason this case is back here is because I said probably a little too much," Galloway said Thursday.
Calling the case the worst instance of sexual abuse he has ever heard, Galloway said he considered not suspending any portion of Derita's sentence in 2013.
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Family and friends stood in court Friday and told Galloway that Derita was a good man and helped a lot of people. Defense attorney Thomas Hickman said Derita is still young enough to contribute to society if he is ever released.
"This matter before the court appears to be an aberration," he said.
In announcing that Derita's sentence would remain the same, Galloway explicitly stated that Derita had every right to go to trial, and the state proved the charges to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Galloway said 12 jurors found the testimony of the victims to be credible and convicted him on a total of 11 counts of child abuse and related charges. The only thing that has changed between 2013 and 2015 is Derita served some time in prison.