MADISON — Jessica Samano said she only remembered parts of a drunken night in which she attacked and sexually assaulted another woman.

The 27-year-old Norfolkan remembers drinking with the victim and her sister for most of the evening before dropping off the victim at her sister’s home, but Samano said she still can’t remember punching, slamming and sexually assaulting the woman inside her car. The judge didn’t buy it.

Judge James Kube sentenced Samano to 16 to 20 years in prison on Thursday in district court for the conviction of attempted first-degree sexual assault, a Class 2A felony.

Samano’s charge had been amended to an attempted sexual assault in September as part of a plea agreement. But Matthew Kiernan, deputy Madison County attorney, classified Samano’s actions that night as nothing short of brutal.

“It’s very apparent that this was a violent sexual assault. In addition to physically assaulting her with punches ..., she raped the victim,” Kiernan said. “She threatened the victim if she spoke about the incident and threatened to get her family involved.”

The victim, a woman who had lived in Norfolk for less than a month at the time of the assault, arrived at her house in distress after the assault. She initially heeded Samano’s threats, Kiernan said, waiting until the next day to report the incident.

Police reports indicated that Samano had hung out with the victim and her sister at the sister’s residence for a few hours on the night of April 20. Toward the end of the night, Samano had said she needed to retrieve something from her residence and drop it off at an acquaintance’s residence.

So the victim’s sister drove Samano and the victim over to Samano’s residence to retrieve the item. After arriving at Samano’s residence, Samano insisted that the victim ride along with her, despite admittedly drinking an excess amount of alcohol that night.

After Samano dropped the item off at her acquaintance’s residence, she started “driving around” with the victim in the passenger seat before pulling into an empty lot with little light.

Once Samano parked her car, the victim said, Samano pushed her head against the passenger side window and held it there. With her free hand, Samano forced down the victim’s pants, as well as her own, exposing a sex toy.

Samano started assaulting the victim with the apparatus while the victim repeatedly yelled at Samano to stop.

The victim said she hit Samano in the ribs multiple times, but to no avail. Samano hit the victim on the right side of her head and held her hand over the victim’s mouth to keep her quiet, police reports said. The assault reportedly continued for several minutes.

After threatening harm to the woman if she told anyone, Samano dropped the victim off at her sister’s residence and sped off. Doctors diagnosed multiple injuries to the victim’s face and reproductive area.

The next day, Samano admitted to wanting to have sex with the victim but denied assaulting her. Her stance didn’t waver at her sentencing hearing.

The Norfolk woman said she recalls smoking a cigarette that night and dropping the victim off at her sister’s residence, but she claimed to have no memory of the assault. She blamed her lack of memory on alcohol.

Kube said in court that Samano’s family had sent multiple letters indicating that the entire incident was a made-up story — that Samano had never been aggressive toward anyone, that she has a beautiful heart and is lovable.

“Have you indicated to these folks that you didn’t do this?” Kube asked. Samano said she told her family she didn’t commit the crime she was convicted of.

Kiernan said one has to decide whether to believe the victim’s story or Samano’s, and that he found the former much more truthful. The deputy county attorney suggested that Kube sentence Samano to a lengthy prison term.

“Some people might view this case as different with the aggressor being female, but rape is rape,” he said. “This is a violent sexual assault, regardless of gender. The state is asking for a significant term of incarceration due to the violent nature of this assault.”

Chelsey Hartner, deputy Madison County public defender, asked Kube to consider probation or a prison sentence that would allow Samano to be released on parole sooner than later.

“Her recollection is not the same as the victim in this case. She was intoxicated at the time and acknowledges in the (presentence investigation report) that, at the time, she blacked out,” Hartner said. “She will admit that any version close to the story of the victim is not lawful.”

Regardless of how much of that night Samano remembers or tells her family, Hartner said, nobody wants to tell their family about something of that magnitude.

“She’s here to take responsibility,” she said.

Samano pulled out a letter when asked by Kube if she would like to speak.

“I am truly sorry for this past year. I know alcohol played a big part in what happened,” she read. “If I did do those things I’m accused of, then I am embarrassed and am sorry.”

Kube told Samano it’s hard to understand why the act she committed would happen. The judge said he tended to believe that Samano remembered sexually assaulting the victim and that she knew exactly what she was going to do.

“You came prepared to do that, and you were able to subdue this person violently,” Kube said. “She was screaming for you to stop, and she tried to get away. But you struck her in a way that made her comply with what you wanted to do.”

The judge said rape itself is a serious crime, but what worsened the crime is the evidence that Samano also punched the victim’s head and slammed her against a car window.

“Rape is not a sexual act. It’s a violent act,” the judge said. “It’s an act that a person exerts dominance over another. “... It’s really violence in its most pure form.”

Samano was given credit for 207 days served and must serve 8 years less 207 days before she becomes eligible for parole. She must serve 10 years before her mandatory release.

In addition, Samano must register as a sex offender for 25 years after she gets released from prison.

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