A man convicted of a brutal assault and attempted rape of a Charlottesville woman had his 26-year prison sentence reduced by a year following a hearing Tuesday.
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.
She was further attacked by Hodges before she screamed for help and the arrival of someone else caused Hodges to flee. He was soon located and arrested by city police and has remained behind bars since.
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.
Last month, Hodges was sentenced by Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore to an active sentence of 26 years behind bars. In total, Hodges was sentenced 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.
Despite the considerable evidence of mental illness and delusions presented by the defense, Moore said the case was one of the worst he had seen. The defense had requested 6.5 years and the prosecution had requested 25 years.
Not long after the sentencing, Hodges’ attorney, Liz Murtagh, filed a motion to reconsider, citing Moore’s upward departure from both the defense and prosecution’s recommendations. Murtagh also cited that Moore had characterized the attack as a rape when it actuality was an attempted rape.
Tuesday, Hodges and Murtagh appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court to argue for a reconsideration. Acknowledging the horror of the crimes, Murtagh argued that the 26-year active sentence appeared to be more in line with an incident in which a rape was actually committed.
Murtagh again emphasized Hodges’ poor mental health at the time of the incident, which she said contributed to his violence via delusions.
“Based on his age and mental illness, if not treated right, he’s going to have a very difficult time in prison,” Murtagh said. “With that in mind, I ask the court to show mercy.”
Again arguing on behalf of the prosecution, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania emphasized the violence sustained by the survivor and the time Moore took during the sentencing hearing to consider the evidence.
“In my approximate 20 years of practicing law, this is a case with injuries amongst the most severe and shocking I’ve seen,” he said.
Moore agreed with Platania and said he could not recall seeing an assault case where a woman was as bloodied and bruised as the survivor appeared in the evidentiary photos.
“Often when I sentence someone, the case will linger with me and I’ll wonder if I sentenced them too harshly or too lightly,” Moore said. “I struggle to find some issue to hang my hat on in this case that would make me believe I was too harsh.”
However, Moore acknowledged that he sentenced Hodges above the commonwealth’s request and decided to reduce the active term by a year. Specifically, Moore changed the sentence on the malicious wounding conviction from 20 years with five suspended to 20 years with six years suspended, bringing the active sentence for all charges down to 25 years.
“In a case like this, I have to determine how much risk should the court ask the public to bear,” Moore said, recalling something he said during the June hearing. “My answer is still not much.”