ITHACA, N.Y. — A former Cornell University student was sentenced to six years of probation Tuesday after pleading guilty to forcibly touching a woman.
Wolfgang Ballinger, 22, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of forcible touching in February.
More than a year ago, Ballinger was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in his room at 2 Forest Park Lane, the Psi Upsilon Chi Chapter fraternity house. Police initially charged Ballinger with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse. However, he was indicted only the first-degree sexual abuse charge in July, and the final plea was reduced to forcible touching.
Cornell University could not comment on Ballinger’s status as a student. However, at the sentencing, Ballinger’s defense attorney Sarah Wesley said Ballinger was “kicked out” of Cornell and began taking online courses from Hunter College and New York University.
Due to the level of the charge, Ballinger is not required to register as a sex offender.
Ballinger could have gotten a conditional discharge, but Judge Joseph Cassidy imposed the maximum sentence possible with the plea agreement, which is six years of probation. Ballinger must also pay more than $1,000 in fines.
A three-year order of protection has been issued for the victim.
The victim was present at the sentencing and read a statement. She described the assault in her statement, which she said was the most “horrendous trauma.”
“I was not a person as he violated me. I was an object,” she said.
Court documents allege that on the night of the assault, Ballinger locked the door, pushed the woman against the door and tried having sexual intercourse with her twice from behind. He was also accused of forcing the woman to have oral sex with him and pushing her onto the bed where he allegedly sexually abused her with his fingers, records show.
She said she knows many women in her shoes will never receive justice. She told the court that when she went to the hospital to get a rape kit after the incident, she had to wait for another woman to finish before getting hers.
In court, the woman said she wants Ballinger to be held accountable and to know he feels genuine remorse.
“All I want is to feel like myself again,” she said.
She said Ballinger hurt much more than a stranger. She said her family, including her mother and sisters, have been impacted.
Ballinger declined to make a statement at sentencing.
Ballinger’s attorney, Sarah Wesley, said the fact that Ballinger was initially charged with violent felonies and is now only pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge “speaks volumes” about the facts of the case. She also described Ballinger as an individual of character, who comes from a family of immigrants. She said he was the first person in his family to go to college.
Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski said the district attorney’s office took the decision to offer a reduced plea very seriously. She said the nature of this case still causes trauma.
After the sentencing, District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said the victim and her family were glad probation was imposed, but also disappointed that Ballinger never expressed remorse or made a statement of responsibility aside from his guilty plea.
“That to me speaks to the fact that he needs some level of supervision, that someone needs to be looking over his shoulder and making sure that he’s learned a lesson from this,” Van Houten said.