By: Lori Comstock
SUPERIOR COURT — Although a judge sentenced a Hopatcong man who admitted to strangling his girlfriend to the plea deal agreed upon by the state and the man’s attorney — 120 days in the county jail on the condition of five years of probation — he expressed qualms about doing so.
Judge William J. McGovern III noted that each year, he is mandated to take certain training sessions as a criminal court judge, and among them are seminars dealing with all types of violence.
“One of those requirements … are seminars dealing with individuals who have engaged in physical violence toward other people by way of strangulation,” he said, as he stressed, “It is considered one of the most serious forms of aggravated assault.”
McGovern reluctantly handed down the sentence to Richard Keim, 29, who appeared in court after pleading guilty on July 11 to third-degree aggravated assault, a domestic violence charge.
The judge gave Keim a stern warning: “If anybody had any question in their mind why Judge McGovern seems so aggravated today, that is one of the reasons why. So, Mr. Keim, you are on my radar, and if you screw up (and accrue other charges), God help you, you are going to state prison.”
Keim, who has been detained to the county jail since his May 25 arrest, will be released from the county jail on or about Sept. 22 since he has accrued 105 days of jail credits as of Friday.
Keim was initially charged with third-degree aggravated assault, third-degree terroristic threats and third-degree burglary, but the charges of terroristic threats and burglary were dismissed as part of the plea.
Hopatcong police were called on May 25 to the apartment he shares with his girlfriend, whose name is being withheld due to the nature of the charges, for an assault.
The affidavit states that Keim and his girlfriend, who had been dating for “about a month,” got into an argument before she told him to leave the house.
Keim left, but quickly found his way back into the home through a bedroom window that he forced open, the affidavit states.
Once inside, Keim threw the victim to the floor, where she crashed into a lamp and struck her right elbow on the baseboard vent. Keim then “grabbed the victim, threw her on the bed and took his left hand and strangled the victim, cutting off her air supply,” the affidavit states.
His girlfriend told police that while struggling for air, she saw Keim cock his right hand back in preparation to strike her, but he was stopped “by a friend who reached through the window.”
According to police, the victim suffered injuries to her arm, she complained of jaw pain and had a red mark around her throat but refused medical treatment.
The plea deal did not call for no contact between the victim and Keim, according to Assistant Prosecutor Nikoletta Agouras.
Agouras noted that Keim’s girlfriend, who was expected to appear in court on Friday but failed to do so, did not want to file a temporary restraining order and did not want to request a no-contact provision against Keim.
In addition, Keim’s attorney, Shaun Russell, said the victim was allowing Keim to come back to the apartment upon his release from jail.
McGovern, however, stated he was “troubled” by the case and imposed a no-contact provision, mandating Keim not even contact the victim on social media.
“The victim is not here but was planning to be here. As a judge I wonder why. The victim never sought a domestic restraining order; I wonder why,” he said. “I don’t know the depth of their relationship, but what I do know is that Mr. Keim has some serious issues.”
Additional details about Keim’s substance abuse and criminal history were also divulged during Friday’s hearing.
During an interview with a probation officer prior to sentencing, Keim admitted he uses heroin up to 15 times a day, uses cocaine once a week, drinks two pints of gin daily, and uses marijuana once in a while, Agouras said.
Agouras said Keim has at least four burglary charges, dating back to 2008 where he received state prison time.
In defense of the plea agreement, Agouras said the state “took into consideration the victim’s desires as well as all of the factors that came into play during this aggravated assault.”
Due to the nature of the charges, Keim will not be able to possess weapons or firearms.
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