Rape charge dropped in plea

A Hope man, jailed for six months in Bartholomew County after he was arrested on two counts of rape will spend another seven weeks behind bars.

But when he is released during the first week of January, Jeffery H. Polk, 49, of 955 Jackson St., will have to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann ruled in a sentencing hearing last week.

Polk was accused of forcing a woman into committing two separate sexual acts while on a date, according to a probable-cause affidavit. Both were classified as Level 3 felonies, which meant a conviction could have resulted in Polk being ordered to serve 6 to 20 years in prison, as well as pay fines of up to $20,000.

However, a plea agreement reached in Bartholomew Circuit Court on Sept. 10 allowed the Hope man to plead guilty to a significantly lesser charge of sexual battery as a Level 6 felony, court documents state.

That’s punishable by 6 months to 2½ years, as well as a maximum $10,000 fine.

A recent sworn deposition by the victim led to the reduction in charges, Bartholomew County deputy prosecutor Kathleen Burns said.

The woman swore under oath that some acts that she originally told investigators were done against her will were consensual, Burns said.

Initially describing her friendship with Polk as platonic, the 53-year-old victim told police she agreed to go out to dinner with him May 22 to celebrate her birthday, according to the affidavit signed by Detective Sergeant Chad Swank of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Instead of a restaurant, Polk took the woman to his home. While the woman told investigators she repeatedly pleaded to Polk to stop, he continued to make increasingly overt advances, the affidavit stated.

However, defense attorney Mark Dove said Thursday the sex was consensual until the woman refused to consent to an act she considered deviant.

Dove’s description drew no objection from Burns, who said both she and the victim are comfortable with dropping the original rape charges.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.