Several of the young girls a Garfield Heights man is accused of sexually assaulting sobbed in court Tuesday afternoon when they learned he may be permitted to withdraw his pleas.
Scott Brundage, who was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, sent a letter to Summit County Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands claiming he was coerced by his attorneys into pleading guilty to rape and other charges last week. Brundage asked that he be permitted to withdraw his pleas and proceed to trial.
Rowlands will hold a hearing on his request, with a date to be determined next week.
The alleged victims, their family members and other supporters who packed the courtroom were distraught that the case they thought was about to conclude won’t be decided anytime soon. They cried and comforted each other and complained to prosecutors.
Brundage, 51, accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors last Tuesday after a jury had been seated and opening statements were about to begin in his trial. He pleaded guilty to rape, a first-degree felony; three counts of gross sexual imposition, third-degree felonies; and two counts of gross sexual imposition, second-degree felonies. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss numerous other charges.
Prosecutors say the girls ranged in age from 9 to 14 at the time of the incidents. An investigation began when the youngest girl reported in January 2017 that Brundage had been sexually assaulting her, police said.
Police determined the girl’s sisters also were assaulted between early August and late November 2016. In March 2017, another woman reported that Brundage had also assaulted her daughters.
Brundage has no prior criminal record. He worked for about a year as a part-time police officer in Kirtland in the early 1990s, and most recently was a self-employed tile contractor.
Brundage claimed in a seven-page letter that Rowlands received from him Monday that his court-appointed attorneys, Jacob Will and Will Vasiliou, told him he would be able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding if he accepted the plea agreement. He said he understood this to mean he would get only a few years in prison.
Rowlands said Will and Vasiliou suggested in a sentencing memorandum that Brundage receive less than 10 years while prosecutors urged that he get 25 years.
Rowlands said she spent an extensive amount of time researching how she should handle Brundage’s request. She said if she doesn’t grant his request, this decision likely would be reversed on appeal.
Assistant Prosecutor Dan Sallerson, however, said Brundage can’t request to withdraw his plea based on a change of heart.
“We cannot believe he will be able to meet his burden,” Sallerson said.
Under the plea agreement, Brundage faced up to 29 years in prison. If convicted of all of the charges against him, he faces life in prison.
Rowlands warned him that, if he withdraws his plea, a new plea agreement likely won’t be offered.
She granted a request from Will and Vasiliou to withdraw as Brundage’s counsel and said she will appoint him a new attorney. Will and Vasiliou declined to comment.
Among those in court Tuesday were several members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, an international group of motorcyclists that supports child abuse victims. They wore black leather jackets bearing the group’s patch.
Mamabear, one of the bikers who said members don’t provide their real names, said they go to court when their presence is requested by a victim advocate or family member.
“We are here to empower the abused child to not be afraid in the world in which we live,” said Mamabear, herself an abuse survivor.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.