HUNTINGTON — Former Marshall University student Alicia Gonzales left Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson’s courtroom in tears Tuesday — but quickly pulled herself together — after seeing the man she accused of raping her, Joseph Chase Hardin, for the first time in three years as he was arraigned on charges alleging he raped two other women.
"I felt like I needed to be there for them, especially because I'm in a completely different mental state now than I was then,” she said. “Then, nobody believed me. They basically treated my case the same as if someone punched you in the face."
Hardin, 22, of Huntington, had been serving probation for the 2016 on-campus attack of Gonzales after being convicted of misdemeanor battery, but has been jailed since June 7. Previous to his incarceration, authorities filed a motion in court to revoke his probation based on the new rape accusations. He is also accused of consuming alcohol, which is against probation rules.
Hardin was indicted in June on four counts of second-degree sexual assault related to two fall 2018 incidents involving two women. Both were MU students, according to authorities, but the alleged attacks occurred off-campus.
The three women appeared together in court Tuesday, sitting just feet behind Hardin while wearing pink shirts with "#MeToo" in large type, as Hardin was read his new charges for the first time by a judge.
His court-appointed attorney, Kerry Nessel, entered a not-guilty plea before Ferguson on his behalf. Nessel requested bond for his client, stating it was unfair for his client to be in jail on only accusations.
"The only allegation contained in the revocation itself is the simple fact he’s been charged with these crimes, which he adamantly denies,” he said. “... He’s languishing in jail for something he did not do.”
Ferguson denied the request for bond, replying, “We don’t know that yet.”
Nessel requested a speedy trial and said he has a lot of evidence to vindicate his client.
"He will not take a plea, your honor, not even to a misdemeanor (for) time served," he said.
Hardin’s final probation revocation hearing will be July 2, with a July 26 hearing set for the new indictment against Hardin.
Hardin had been sentenced in Gonzales’ case to three years’ probation after entering a Kennedy plea to misdemeanor battery. A Kennedy plea allows a defendant to accept a punishment for a crime without admitting guilt.
He now faces up to a year jail sentence, if Ferguson decides to revoke his probation. If convicted of the new charges, he faces a 10- to 25-year prison sentence on each of the four counts.
After the attack on Gonzales, Hardin was allowed to remain on campus after a long legal battle, but he has since been expelled after the new charges arose. University spokesperson Ginny Painter said earlier this month the university properly followed state law and federal regulations set by the U.S. Department of Education in allowing Hardin to remain on campus in the 2016 case.
Gonzales said his expulsion was bittersweet, but added she had taken a “better late than” never mentality with the situation.
"He’s a perpetrator to these young, freshman girls. That's his target because they're the most vulnerable, which is so sick to me,” she said. “It frustrates me, but I’m definitely more thankful and excited that he was expelled."
In a federal lawsuit filed against the university’s board of governors, Gonzales said she was forced to leave Marshall after they allowed Hardin to remain on campus. The university disputes Gonzales left because of the assault.
The lawsuit is set to go to trial Aug. 6. The sides met for mediation to attempt to settle the case June 3, a standard practice in federal court, but according to documents filed in federal court this week, the mediation was unsuccessful and did not result “in progress toward settlement.”
Gonzales is now attending a university in Pennsylvania, where she studies psychology with plans to become a victim's advocate upon graduation.
The Herald-Dispatch typically does not identify sexual assault victims or their families, but Gonzales has been open about her recovery after the attack and agreed to a media interview Tuesday.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.