Ex-college athlete sentenced to 5 years in prison for rape
GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) — A former University of Delaware baseball player accused of sexually assaulting six women was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for his rape conviction in the first case to go to trial.
Sussex County Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes also sentenced 23-year-old Clay Conaway to one year of home confinement and two years of probation for the June 2018 rape of a woman he met online. She was 21 at the time of Conaway’s conviction in September.
The woman told the judge that the rape “shattered” her world, leaving her struggling to cope with anxiety and stress.
“I felt worthless, disrespected and like an object, not a human being,” she said.
One of Conaway’s lawyers said they instructed him not to address the judge during the hearing. Instead, defense attorney Natalie Woloshin read aloud excerpts of letters from supporters and from Conaway himself. In a letter to a relative, Conaway said he was “careless” and got “caught up in the party lifestyle,” Woloshin said.
“I put myself in this position and that kills me,” Conaway wrote.
After a 10-day trial, a jury deliberated for about three hours before convicting Conaway of fourth-degree rape in September. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison but no mandatory prison time. Conaway had faced a possible life sentence if jurors had convicted him of first-degree rape.
The judge departed from sentencing guidelines that called for a range of zero to 30 months in prison. A prosecutor, Rebecca Anderson, had recommended a sentence of eight years in prison.
Anderson said Conaway hasn’t shown any remorse, refuses to accept any blame and lied to investigators.
“The defendant wants everyone to feel sorry for poor Clay,” she said.
The woman testified at trial that Conaway raped her after she drove to his house. The encounter occurred three weeks after they connected on the online social and dating application Bumble. Conaway sent her a nude picture of himself before they met.
She’s one of six women whom Conaway is accused of sexually assaulting between September 2013 and July 2018. A judge ordered separate trials involving each accuser. Conaway is scheduled to stand trial again in December in a second case.
The woman in the concluded case testified that she was surprised, then anxious and afraid, when consensual cuddling and kissing with Conaway escalated to physical force and violence. The woman said she told Conaway that he didn’t want to have sex that day, told him to stop and asked to leave.
“He blocked me and tried to assure me everything was fine. Nothing was fine,” she said Friday.
She said her trauma has been compounded by the rigors of a trial and widespread publicity about the case.
“I am not fine, and the path to healing will be long and difficult,” she said.
In Delaware, fourth-degree rape is defined as intentional penetration with any object or body part without consent. Prosecutors needed to prove that the woman was injured during the encounter to sustain a conviction for first-degree rape. They alleged that she suffered a hip injury when Conaway pinned her legs up near her shoulders.
A sexual assault examiner testified that she found no visible injuries on the woman. Two days after her sexual assault exam, the woman returned to the hospital complaining of hip pain.
Woloshin, one of Conaway’s attorneys, said her client and the woman he was convicted of raping both have been targets of disgusting comments on social media.
“He is so sorry for the hurt they have caused (the woman) and her family,” Woloshin said.
Anderson, the prosecutor, said Conaway hasn’t stopped “victim blaming.”
“His behavior is extremely problematic and dangerous,” she said.
Associated Press reporter Randall Chase contributed to this story.