Cadet guilty of rape in West Chester trial
WEST CHESTER >> The arc of the life of two promising college students whose paths crossed on St. Patrick’s Day two years ago is a study in tragedy, said those who were involved in the criminal trial that resulted in guilty verdicts on rape charges over a four-day period this week.
A Chester County Common Pleas Court jury Thursday found Tyler Hogan Lampe, a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., guilty on charges of rape of an unconscious person, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, and indecent assault.
Lampe, 22, of Gettysburg, now faces the possibility of being sentenced to a term in state prison and the end to his future career in the military, where he had hoped to follow in the footsteps of his parents, both of whom are Air Force veterans.
But equally as derailed and damaged is the life of the woman he was convicted of sexually assaulting as she lay asleep on her bed on the third floor of an apartment house not far from the campus of West Chester University, where she was a sophomore, studying psychology.
According to her own testimony at the four-day long trial in Common Pleas Judge Patrick Carmody’s courtroom, she had been on track to graduate early from the school and seek a professional career. Today, she has not graduated, is no longer enrolled in school, and works at the same hair salon where she has been employed since high school.
“Why did this happen?” asked First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone during his closing argument Thursday. Those in the courtroom characterized the prosecutor’s argument as powerful and eloquent. Why did Lampe, a 19-year-old cadet with a model reputation, choose to put his future at risk during a night of heavy drinking and sexual adventure?
Noone could offer no definite answer, besides the obvious.
“When he was under the influence of alcohol, he did things that he would not have done when he was sober,” Noone said. “Things that he would be sorry for later on. That is what rape in America looks like.”
As for the woman, Noone said she had shown the strength to persevere through a 2 ½-year trauma that included an unwanted attack, the loss of friends and the harsh glare of courtroom confrontations. “But she had the support of others and the courage to stand up for herself and not be a victim,” Noone told the jurors hearing the case. The woman, now 22, silently nodded her head while sitting in the front row of Carmody’s courtroom Thursday.
On Friday, Noone reiterated his admiration for the way the woman dealt with her attack.
“The survivor of this rape deserves tremendous credit,” he said in a statement. “Her strength and resolve throughout this long process have been inspiring. This is a sad case, but an important lesson that taking advantage of anyone, whether they are drunk or for any other reason, is completely unacceptable and a crime. The Commonwealth appreciates the jury’s thoughtful attention during a very emotional trial.”
Noone said the woman did not want to comment ahead of sentencing.
The charge of rape of an unconscious person is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in state prison. The sentencing guideline that judges use in fashioning their sentences call for a minimum standard range of between four and five and a half years. Noone declined to say what sentence his office would seek.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated about four hours before delivering their verdict around 10:30 p.m. Thursday to a half-filled courtroom, including Lampe, his parents, the woman and her supporters. When the decision to find him guilty was announced, Lampe’s mother, Deborah Lampe, began sobbing, and members of the jury started to cry, observers said.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” said defense attorney Arthur Donato of Media, who led the trio of attorneys representing Lampe. “We believe that Tyler Lampe is innocent, but we will prepare for sentencing and begin researching grounds for an appeal. It’s sad.”
Donato said his client was not caught off guard by the jury’s decision.
“I think everybody understood the risks involved in this case,” he said Friday. “But I think we had reason to hope.”
The defense had contended that the sex between Lampe and the woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily Local News because of the nature of the charges, was consensual, with both being drunk enough at the time to have only a “hazy memory” of events.
Lampe has been free on bail since his arrest in July 2016, four months after the alleged assault. He is currently on administrative leave from West Point, where he enrolled in 2015. A school spokesman said this week that no decision had been made on his future at the school pending the outcome of the legal case against him.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of March 18, 2016, in West Chester. Lampe, then 19 and a member of Army’s Black Knights football team, had come to the borough from West Point to visit his childhood friends, Jake Myers and Alison Tomassini. Myers testified that he wanted to show Lampe a fun time at a party at the fraternity house he belonged. Testimony indicated that Tomassini had thoughts of “hooking up” romantically with Lampe over the weekend.
Tomassini was housemates with the victim, and had warned her to stay away from Lampe that night. The two exchanged text messages indicating, however, that Lampe was interested in having sex with her if he could not “smash up” with anyone else.
The woman left her apartment after drinking beer and vodka with a sorority friend. They went first to Myers’ fraternity party but could not get in, so they went to another house a few doors down from her apartment on South High Street. When the sorority friend
became too intoxicated to be safe, the woman took her home and put her to bed. A few hours later, another roommate, Nora Hughes, took the woman up to her bedroom, finding her to be too intoxicated to make it there herself.
The woman testified that she awoke around 2:30 a.m. with Lampe on top of her, having sex. Myers was shouting and pulling Lampe from her, she said. She reported the incident to West Chester police later that day, and Lampe was arrested in July 2016.
In his 50-minute-long closing argument, which he delivered without notes, Noone stressed to the nine women and three men on the jury that the woman’s
story had remained consistent over the months between the incident and the trial, that she had never consented to having sex with Lampe, who she had met only briefly that night.
Noone noted how her story was corroborated by the testimony and statements of Myers, Tomassini and Hughes, and that forensic evidence showed that Lampe had indeed had sex with her that night. But he also focused on what the assault had done to her life and how the jury could consider that as a way to determine whether she was a credible witness or not. They apparently believed her.
“It was one of the best closing arguments that I have ever seen in my life,” said veteran defense attorney Thomas Ramsay of West Chester of Noone’s presentation. “I think the tenor and the manner in which he delivered it all
seemed purposeful. He had such a sense of purpose, that he wanted to tell her story. And ending it with (the defendant’s) own words was brilliant.”
Lampe had been recorded discussing the incident with the woman in a telephone call overseen by West Chester Detective Stan Billie, the lead detective in the case. On it, he frequently apologizes for what happened, saying that he was an advocate against sexual assault, but that he did not remember being with her that night.
But as the woman pressed him, he made a revealing comment, Noone reminded the panel as he wrapped up his argument for a verdict of guilty. “Do you understand that you raped me?” she asked.
“Yeah, no, I understand that,” Lampe said.”It’s, it was not, you didn’t provide consent I guess.”
Tyler Hogan Lampe