SNOW HILL — A Pennsylvania man, who pleaded guilty in December to first-degree assault following a violent attack on his girlfriend in downtown Ocean City, was sentenced late last week to 20 years in prison.
In December, Nacqueese Humphrey, 27, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for his role in the incident last August that resulted in a fractured skull and shattered jaw for the female victim and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. Last Friday, following a dramatic sentencing hearing, Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Beau Oglesby sentenced Humphrey to 25 years in prison with five years suspended, resulting in 20 years of active incarceration.
The agreed-upon guidelines called for a sentence of six to 12 years, but because of the violent nature of the attack and because Humphrey has a history of violent crime in his native Pennsylvania, the judge sentenced him to the maximum. Humphrey will be required to serve at least half of the 20-year sentence, and Oglesby vowed to keep a close eye on any pending parole reviews. In addition, the judge ordered strict supervised probation following Humphrey’s eventual release because of his violent tendencies.
According to details that emerged during last Friday’s sentencing hearing, Humphrey and the female victim, who were in a relationship, arrived in Ocean City around 9 p.m. last August 24. The victim went to the Boardwalk to get something to eat while Humphrey parked the vehicle and checked into the hotel.
The couple then went to a midtown bar without first unpacking the vehicle and drank alcoholic beverages until closing time, according to the agreed-upon facts. Humphrey and the victim then took a bus back to their vehicle to collect their belongings, but got off at the wrong bus stop.
According to the agreed-upon facts, the couple began arguing as they searched for their vehicle. They ultimately found the vehicle, and by that point, Humphrey had become enraged to the point he kicked in one of the vehicle’s windows, shattering the glass and setting off its alarm.
The victim, fearing for her safety, walked away from Humphrey and soon after located by a group of bystanders, who feared for her safety and stayed with her until help arrived. One of the bystanders called 911 and an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) public safety aide working in the downtown area arrived quickly, followed shortly thereafter by an OCPD officer.
While the police and the bystanders were tending to the victim, Humphrey arrived on the scene, pushed his way past the police officers and punched the victim in her head. The victim collapsed unconscious on the ground, striking her head and face on the concrete.
The victim was lying faced down in a growing pull of blood and police officers had to turn her over in order to make sure she was alive and breathing. Ocean City EMTs arrived and the victim was flown first to Peninsula Regional Medical Center and later to Shock Trauma in Baltimore. The victim suffered a fractured skull, a shattered jaw and other injuries as a result of the attack.
In the months since, the victim has slowly been working through the physical healing process, according to Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutor Lynn Nixon, who represented the state during Friday’s sentencing hearing. For five weeks following the incident, the victim’s jaw was wire shut and she had to carry wire cutters with her at all times in case she had a choking incident or other emergency.
She also suffered debilitating injuries that prevented her from even walking for a long period of time following the attack. The victim was in the courtroom with her family during the sentencing hearing and was able to walk, but she later said there was a long period of time when she was in a wheelchair and had to have her father and mother help her with the simplest of daily tasks such as bathing, for example.
Nixon said the victim continues through the physical healing process with countless visits to doctors and specialists, although she doubted if the victim would ever be completely healed emotionally.
“This was a traumatic event, not just for the victim, but for those who witnessed it,” she said. “The victim has been slowly heeling through the process. Now, she is trying to heel emotionally and mentally.”
When it was her turn to address the court, the victim recounted the events leading up to the incident and her life in the healing process since the attack.
“If it wasn’t for the police officers and the EMTs, I would have died that night,” she said. “I was face down and unconscious in a puddle of blood and he was still trying to come after me.”
During the sentencing hearing, it was learned Humphrey had a history of violent attacks in the past in Pennsylvania. In one incident, an argument on a basketball court resulted in Humphrey punching another individual in an attack similar to the incident in Ocean City last August.
In another incident, Humphrey was involved in an armed robbery during which he pulled a handgun and racked the slide before punching the victim and going through his pockets. For that case, he was sentenced to two-to-four years although it was uncertain just how much of that time he served. The victim said she was uncertain if she would ever fully recover from the attack in Ocean City last August.
“This has impacted all aspects of my life,” she said. “This has affected me physically, emotionally and financially. He is a violent person and he’s never going to change. My jaw was wired shut for five weeks and I lost 40 pounds. I had to move back with my parents because I couldn’t do anything for myself. This is for the rest of my life. It’s not going away.”
Nixon agreed the victim might not ever fully recover from the incident.
“She has come a long way through the process, but she has a long way to go,” she said. “As she has said, this will stay with her for the rest of her life.”
Defense attorney Anders Randrup III told the court Humphrey clearly has anger management and substance abuse issues and suggested any sentence meted out include rehabilitation opportunities.
“We’re asking the court to consider sentencing within the guidelines,” he said. “He is the father of two children and he is employed regularly. He believes he has depression issues and was self-medicating with cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. He’s obviously in need of some help with alcohol and drug counseling.”
For his part, Humphrey apologized to the victim and her family and appeared to be contrite.
“I want to apologize again,” he said. “My apology won’t be enough for the damage that was caused. She is a good person and he family should not have to go through that.”
Humphrey acknowledged he has substance abuse issues and that he and the victim had numerous arguments and physical altercations in the past fueled by alcohol.
“Drinking is the problem and it has led to prior situations with us fighting,” he said. “It just seems to escalate and there is no justification for this. I want my apology to be the last thing I say. I hope she can move on and have a happy life.”
Oglesby listened to the testimony and Humphrey’s apology before weighing in. He said there have been other incidents involving fights in Ocean City going terribly wrong, as it did in this case. Indeed, a handful of recent homicides in the resort area in recent years, of which there aren’t many, have been the result of even a single punch.
“Every summer, we can expect a certain number of fights in Ocean City,” he said. “It can be cauldron of bad things at times. In some cases, the result has been the death of an individual with a single punch. Sometimes, the result is life-changing circumstances, which is the case here.”
Oglesby characterized Humphrey’s attack on the victim as a sucker punch in front of police officers and a group of Good Samaritan bystanders
“This is at the far end of the spectrum,” he said. “I’m not sure a sucker punch describes the level of violence in this incident. You ran past police officers and punched her in the presence of several individuals. That is an amazing lack of self-control.”
Oglesby also pointed at Humphrey’s violent past as he prepared to mete out the sentence.
“You served the better part of four years in Pennsylvania for armed robbery,” he said. “There was the other incident when you punched another person during a basketball game. You’ve apparently learned nothing from those experiences. There is no excuse for your behavior. The victim has had her life changed forever.”
For all of those reasons, Oglesby sentenced Humphrey to 25 years, or the maximum allowable, but suspended five years for a net 20-year sentence.
“I’m not impressed with your effort at an apology,” he said. “This case demonstrates to me that your actions cannot be excused. Your hope is that she can move on. I consider you to be a real danger and you deserve to be removed from the community for a long time.”