Editor’s note: This story includes details about an attempted rape incident that some people may find upsetting. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual or domestic assault, contact the police or The Tompkins County Advocacy Center here.
ITHACA, N.Y. — A Cornell University staff member was sentenced Friday for trying to rape a woman in the city of Ithaca this summer.
Debanhi Gerardo Garcia-Gonzalez, 23, was initially charged with felony first-degree attempted rape and first degree criminal sexual act. As part of a plea deal agreed upon Oct. 23, he pleaded guilty to the top charge in exchange for a recommended sentence of three and a half years in prison with 15 years of post-release supervision. The maximum sentence for the charge is 15 years in prison.
After his release, Garcia-Gonzalez will have to register as a sex offender and will likely be deported to Mexico, where he is a citizen.
According to court documents, Garcia-Gonzalez entered a 25-year-old woman’s room around 3 a.m. on July 22 while she was sleeping in her room.
He threw her phone out of her reach and began trying to rape her, also sexually assaulting her and injuring her when she tried to fight back. She was eventually able to get away and officials say she got in her car and drove to a 24-hour convenience store without her eye glasses or her phone. She asked the store clerk to call police.
Garcia-Gonzalez was taken into custody for the crime and then booked into the Tompkins County Jail on July 27. The defendant knew the woman.
District Attorney Matt Van Houten confirmed that Garcia-Gonzalez was a temporary staffer at Cornell at the time of the incident. Garcia-Gonzalez was slated to be a staffer at the university through December 2017, though he is presumably no longer employed by the university since his incarceration this summer.
After correspondence over a period of hours, Cornell media relations coordinator Lindsey Hadlock said in an email that the university was declining to comment on the incident and would not clarify what Garcia-Gonzalez’s role was at the university or if he was affiliated with Cornell at all. She refused comment clarifying the university’s decision on the matter.
Joseph Schwartz, senior media relations specialist at Cornell University, also declined to comment and refused to verify how or if Garcia-Gonzalez was affiliated with the university.