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Man gets two life sentences for rapes

James Lutz

WOODSTOCK – A judge sentenced a Fort Valley man Monday to serve two life sentences and 10 years in prison for raping a child in 2016.

James Allen Lutz appeared for his sentencing hearing in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Monday. A jury convicted Lutz, 34, on two counts of rape of a child under the age of 13 and aggravated sexual battery of a child. A rape conviction carries a mandatory minimum prison term of life. The crimes took place on three separate occasions in May 2016, according to court documents.

Judge Clark A. Ritchie upheld the jury’s conviction and recommended sentences reached at the end of Lutz’s trial in mid-October. Ritchie ordered Lutz to serve three years of supervised probation upon his release. The judge also ordered Lutz to have no contact with the victim or the child’s immediate family members. Lutz must register with the state police as a violent sex offender and he must have no unsupervised contact with any children.

Lutz said at the end of the sentencing that the incidents didn’t happen the way authorities claim.

“I don’t deserve to be punished for the rest of my life,” Lutz told the judge.

Shenandoah County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola prosecuted the case and argued that Lutz should receive the sentences as recommended by the jury.

Front Royal attorney David Downes represented Lutz and argued for a prison sentence less than life in prison. Downes argued that the sentencing guidelines were calculated under the auspices that the jury assumed Lutz was at least 18 years old at the time the offenses occurred. The argument didn’t sway Ritchie from imposing the mandatory minimum.

Campola argued at the sentencing that the Virgina General Assembly rightly applied a mandatory life sentence for rape convictions. Campola pointed out that Lutz in one instance admitted that he committed the crimes but also claimed the victim came on to him. Campola said this was not a case affected by sentencing guidelines because of the mandatory minimum terms for rape.

Downes stated during his argument that the 13-year-old age threshold applied to rape and aggravated-sexual battery is an “arbitrary” number chosen by the Virginia General Assembly.

The victim’s mother testified at the sentencing hearing that her child suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems for which she received care as a result of the incidents. Downes tried to show that the victim’s mother filled out a victim impact statement for both she and the child. However, the child also submitted a handwritten statement to the court.

The jury neglected to recommend a fine connected with the aggravated sexual battery conviction so Downes and Campola agreed the court could set the amount at $500. Ritchie set the fine at $500 and suspended the amount in its entirety. The crime can carry a fine of up to $100,000. Later, Downes commented that the jury’s failure of selecting a fine illustrates the panel’s haste. The jury took less than seven minutes to reach a verdict and roughly the same amount of time to come up with a recommended sentence.

Ritchie granted Lutz’s request for a court-appointed attorney to represent him through the appeals process. The judge appointed the Office of the Public Defender to represent Lutz. Downes said his client made comments before the sentencing that he had inadequate legal counsel.

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