Jersey City resident Silver Iwuchukwu was sentenced to 15 years in state prison today after being found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious 18-year-old woman back in 2017.
The assault took place in the basement of Iwuchukwu’s apartment building and was caught on a surveillance camera that was still in there from the previous tenant.
Iwuchukwu’s defense attorney, Scott Finckenauer, made the case for a lighter charge, from first-degree sexual assault to second-degree sexual assault, before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez by arguing that his client operates at low intellectual capacity based on his performance on intelligent tests.
Therefore, he should not receive the maximum sentence sought by the prosecution of 20 years.
According to Finckenauer, Iwuchukwu, who is from Nigeria and has been in the country for less than three years, scored in a low percentile range on a non-verbal intelligence test that “puts him in the low-mentally proficient range of intellectual ability.”
While Finckenauer admitted that “low intelligence” doesn’t excuse or justify Iwuchukuw’s actions, he nonetheless argued that the court should consider Iwuchukuw’s personal circumstances in its sentencing.
“I would submit that what took place is illuminated by the intellectual testing report to show that people who are intellectually functioning at the level set forth by these tests are not people who we expect to make decisions that a ‘normal person’ would make,” said Finckenauer.
“It’s not fair to judge him against the standard of a normally intelligent person.”
Finckenauer also tried to persuade the court for a lighter sentence by explaining that Iwuchukwu faces deportation back to Nigeria – where his sister was murdered – and a bleak future once he completes his prison sentence.
He completed his remarks by asking the judge for a sentence no greater than seven years.
Conversely, Andrew Baginski, an assistant prosecutor for the HCPO, quickly rebutted Finckenauer’s argument by reminding the judge that Iwuchukwu was competent enough to stand trial.
Before requesting a maximum sentence of 20 years given the nature of the crime, Baginski described to the court in explicit detail some of the actions that Iwuchukwu committed against the 18-year old woman.
“That video shows his bare ass pointed at the camera and thrusting over and over again on a girl who is unconscious. You also see in the video that he and his upstairs neighbor try to unlock the victim’s phone with all of her fingers, and she doesn’t respond to any of it,” said Baginski.
He emphasized that because the victim is clearly unconscious during the full hour that Iwuchukwu assaults her, warrants a first-degree aggravated sexual assault, not a second-degree aggravated sexual assault sought by the defense.
Galis-Menendez acknowledged that there were some mitigating factors to consider before sentencing Iwuchukwu, such as his low-performing intelligence testing, immigration status and the prospects of deportation back to Nigeria.
However, she ruled that the aggravated factors far outweighed the mitigating factors in determining the appropriate sentence.
“I sentence you to 15 years in state prison. You will have to serve 12 years, 9 months and 3 days before being eligible for parole. In addition, once you are released from custody, you’ll be subject to Megan’s Law, which means you’ll have to register with certain public agencies, and you’ll have to notify law enforcement of any change in address should you remain in the country,” she ruled.
Should Iwuchukwu remain in the country after his prison release, he’ll face harsh penalties.
For example, failure to register under Megan’s Law and providing information to law enforcement regarding routine access on the Internet will result in a third-degree crime which subjects the convicted to a five-year prison sentence.
Iwuchukwu has already spent nearly 700 days in jail, from November 14, 2017 through today, which Menendez credited toward his sentencing.
When asked by Menendez if he had any words to say before sentencing, he looked back at the judge, bowed his head, and said he was sorry for his actions.