Teenager admits guilt in rape case

An Augusta teenager who raped a disabled woman pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Michael A. Hawes, 17, decided to plead guilty instead of standing trial this week in Richmond County Superior Court.

"When you can get a sex offender early on, that's a good thing," said Assistant District Attorney Philip W. Catalano, who was ready to try the case.

Mr. Hawes picked the most helpless victim he could find, but his behavior would have escalated to other victims, Mr. Catalano said.

Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet imposed a 25-year prison sentence, which is the minimum rape sentence under the state's new sex offender laws.

The ninth-grade dropout was accused of assaulting the 54-year-old woman Jan. 14.

The victim was staying with relatives on Broad Street but was home alone on the day of the attack. She is paralyzed on one side of her body, blind in one eye and unable to speak, Mr. Catalano said.

When her sister visited her later that day, she could tell something was wrong with the victim, who was crying and mad, Mr. Catalano said. The sister used a series of questions to figure out what had happened.

The victim would have testified at trial, Mr. Catalano said. She can communicate by nodding and shaking her head.

Mr. Hawes' DNA was found in the victim's rape kit samples, Mr. Catalano said.

Mr. Hawes, an orphan raised by a grandmother, was 16 when the assault happened, said attorney Kate Mason of the public defender office.

"I want to apologize ... to everybody," Mr. Hawes said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.