Sexual assault convictions involving two teenagers have brought a Rocky Mount man 33 years in prison.
Rodney Vance Frith, 58, was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Frith’s punishment, determined by Judge Clyde Perdue, fell toward the high end of guidelines, which called for terms of roughly 16 to 34 years.
Last summer, prosecutors brought 16 counts of sexual assault against Frith for incidents which they said began in 2015 and victimized two girls in their early teens. Frith was not a stranger to the victims and, in January 2018, one of them told her mother he had sexually assaulted her. An investigation followed.
In February, Frith entered Alford pleas to three charges: indecent liberties and two counts of rape. The other 13 offenses were dropped; two of them would have carried life sentences as mandatory minimum punishments.
Convictions for rape in Virginia can bring punishments of five years to life. The use of an Alford plea means a defendant maintains innocence but does not want to risk a trial.
At Frith’s initial sentencing hearing last month, however, he appeared with new counsel and asked to withdraw his prior pleas and go to trial. He claimed he had previously misunderstood his inability to take back his pleas once they were made and also argued that his first lawyer had not sought witnesses he wanted to bring forward.
Judge Stacey Moreau denied his request and reset his sentencing for this week.
The victims’ mother on Wednesday read a lengthy, emotional statement about how the incidents had affected them. They are not being identified because of the nature of the charges.
Several other people also appeared at the hearing as character witnesses on Frith’s behalf, including his sister-in-law and four others who knew him mostly professionally, from his work as a carpenter and a contractor. They described him as reliable and trustworthy.
Perdue sentenced him to 30 years on each rape conviction, to run concurrently, plus three years on the indecent liberties charge. Frith will be on probation for 10 years after he is released and will be required to be on good behavior for the rest of his life.