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Niagara deputy takes plea deal in a 13-year-old rape case

A suspended Niagara County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Wednesday for endangering the welfare of a child, and it remains to be seen whether he will return to patrol duties.

Kevin J. Rohde, 31, pleaded guilty in February to a charge that stems from an incident with a 15-year-old girl in his family's home 13 years ago, when Rohde was 18.

Rohde was sentenced as a youthful offender, because of his age at the time, and was granted a one-year conditional discharge.

City Court Judge William J. Watson also ordered Rohde to pay a $200 fine and to be screened by a mental health counselor.

"Everyone is in agreement, which doesn't always happen," Watson said of a plea bargain in the case, "and the only two people who know what happened are also in agreement."

Rohde's family and the victim's family were in court. The judge said he hoped both families would be able to put their lives back together.

Special prosecutor Aaron F. Glazer called the plea deal "the best both sides could have hoped for." He said that before Rohde took plea, he had been ready to take the case to the grand jury and seek a first-degree rape charge.

"There was a lot of risk in this case for both sides," Glazer said. "For the prosecution, there was very little evidence, and for the defense, there was the risk of taking it to trial, which could have had very serious consequences."

If Rohde had been found guilty of first-degree rape, Glazer said, he could have been sentenced to anywhere from five to 25 years in state prison.

"Those are pretty big dice to roll," Glazer said.

The father of the victim said outside court that he was happy with the resolution but would like to see that Rohde does not get his job back. He said his daughter has struggled because of what happened 13 years ago.

The father said friends and family members have written nearly 50 letters to the sheriff to stop Rohde from being put back on the road.

"He committed a crime. He lied on his application," the father said. "Our essential goal is to make sure he doesn't get his job back, but the union is going to protect him."

Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour said he was unwilling to discuss whether Rohde will be reinstated, saying it is now a personnel matter.

Rohde's attorney, George V.C. Muscato, has previously mentioned his client's decorated career since Rohde became a deputy in 2004. He said Wednesday there is nothing to prevent Rohde from being reinstated.

The case was resolved with the "Alford plea," which does not involve any admission by Rohde. Because Rohde was granted youthful-offender status, Muscato said, it "removes the stigma of a conviction."

"He is leaving [the courtroom] exactly as he came in," Muscato said.

Glazer disagreed, saying a conviction is replaced with a "youthful-offender adjudication," which remains on his record.

"I feel he is in jeopardy of losing his job, but that is now in the hands of the sheriff," Glazer said.