Feb. 10, 2000
By Valerie Kalfrin
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. “– A mother of two is accused of arranging for a family friend to rape her 19-year-old daughter at knife point while she watched from another room, officials said today.
APBnews.com is not releasing the name of the 48-year-old western Pennsylvania woman to protect her daughter’s identity, but authorities say she recruited a friend, 53-year-old James Anthony Nerone Jr. of Pittsburgh, to bind and assault the teenager during a concocted home invasion.
The mother, who is charged with criminal conspiracy, told police she had frequently discussed committing a sexual assault on one of her daughters with Nerone before the two agreed on a plan for Feb. 4, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Butler County District Court.
Nerone’s lawyer, Alexander Lindsey of Butler, said the man is innocent of the rape, sexual assault, unlawful restraint, terroristic threats, reckless endangerment and other charges against him. Nerone and the mother are free today on $50,000 unsecured bond pending a preliminary hearing March 29.
Shopping for masking tape
According to the complaint, the mother said she and Nerone went shopping for a cap, gloves and masking tape the day before the attack. Around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 4, she invited Nerone home while the teenager slept, and then hid in the bathroom.
The teenager said she thought she recognized Nerone’s voice when a masked, knife-wielding intruder woke her, demanded money for drugs and said there were others in the house “taking care of her mom and sister,” the complaint said.
The man bound her hands with rope and secured masking tape over her eyes and mouth and around her ankles, the teen told police. Over the next 4 1/2 hours, she said in the complaint, he forced her to drink an alcoholic beverage, spoke sexually suggestive phrases to her, poked her with the knife, backhanded her, and raped her repeatedly.
At one point, the complaint said, the attacker forced the teenager into the laundry room, opened the door to the bathroom and ordered her mother to watch while she performed a sex act. The mother later told investigators she had witnessed the act “while he held a knife to [her daughter’s] throat.”
‘Betrayal’ by family members
The attacker fled through the garage when the victim’s sister arrived home around 3 a.m. Saturday and called police to report a burglary, authorities said.
Investigators declined to comment on the case, but victims’ advocates say it’s not uncommon for a relative to set up a family member to be victimized.
“When somebody in the family is involved, it certainly is a betrayal,” said Kathy Tack of the Victims Outreach Intervention Center, a comprehensive counseling and referral agency in Butler.
“There’s no acceptable reason for anybody to perpetrate this kind of violence on any young woman,” Tack told APBnews.com. “This is never the victim’s fault. This young woman is probably very devastated, as are the people who know her.”
Follow up on the case:
Verdict mixed in bizarre rape case
Suspect cleared of most serious counts
Thursday, August 30, 2001
By Jonathan D. Silver, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
James A. Nerone Jr. took a gamble, but whether it pays off remains to be seen.
Two months ago, the Green Tree man withdrew his plea of guilty but mentally ill to charges that he raped his former lover’s 19-year-old daughter as part of a sexual escapade planned by the two adults.
Against the advice of his attorney, he decided to hand his fate to a Butler County jury rather than serve a guaranteed sentence of four to eight years.
After daylong testimony Tuesday about sexual fantasies, sex toys and fetishes, the case that was more tawdry than any soap opera came to an end yesterday when the jury of seven men and five women acquitted Nerone of the most serious charges but found him guilty of others.
Nerone’s attorney, Charles Porter, said after the verdict that he was unsure whether the time his client will have to serve in jail will be more or less than what he would have received under the defunct plea agreement.
“It’s still somewhat of a mixed bag, I think,” Porter said outside the courtroom as his client was returned to the Butler County Prison. “It’s one of those verdicts that it’s kind of hard to figure, to some extent.”
Nerone was found guilty of indecent assault, unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, possessing an instrument of a crime and criminal conspiracy.
He was acquitted of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, terroristic threats and simple assault.
The jury deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours and hustled from the courtroom while the judge concluded the proceedings. Three male jurors interviewed as they pulled out of a parking garage said the prosecution suffered because Cranberry police did not collect enough physical evidence, a central pillar of Porter’s defense.
Investigators accused Nerone, 54, of assaulting the woman in the bedroom of her Cranberry home on Feb. 4, 2000, while wielding an 8-inch knife. The victim testified that Nerone disrobed her, tied her up, put tape over her mouth and eyes and forced her to perform oral sex on him several times — once, she believed, in front of her mother.
Nerone claimed that the encounter was consensual and nonviolent and did not involve any intercourse. He said it was cooked up by the victim’s mother, both as part of her sexual fantasy and to address her daughter’s difficulties with men her own age.
The victim’s mother, who was brought from prison to testify against her former lover, was convicted in March of conspiring with Nerone to assault her daughter.
Porter beseeched jurors to focus on the lack of physical evidence in the case — no samples of semen of other bodily fluids were recovered, and fibers found on the victim were not matched to any of Nerone’s clothing — and reminded them of the many inconsistencies in testimony by prosecution witnesses.
Porter hammered on the wealth of conflicting statements that arose from the testimony of many witnesses.
He also cast doubt on the victim’s story, intimating that it was unlikely that Nerone, a small, slight, bespectacled man, was capable of physically threatening her, especially when her squirms and kicks while he was allegedly trying to rape her at knife-point did not result in retaliation.
“If we did a life story of Jim Nerone, we wouldn’t have Steven Seagal playing him, we would have Don Knotts,” Porter said.
Assistant District Attorney David Hepting got in the last word. During his 40-minute closing argument, Hepting asked jurors why the victim would ever allow herself to be dragged through the public spectacle of an unpleasant trial if the charges were false.
Hepting scoffed at Nerone’s story that the victim came on to him. And he reacted with disbelief that anyone having a first sexual encounter with someone would use such props as a mask, tape, rope and penknife.
Nerone said he wore a ski mask, tied the victim loosely and taped her eyes for his kinky pleasure. He also said he used a penknife to cut off her bra with her permission after becoming frustrated fumbling for the clasp.
In the end, Hepting suggested to jurors that either all of the witnesses were wrong and Nerone was right, since he disputed all their accounts, or that Nerone was a guilty liar.”
Valerie Kalfrin APBnews.com