Up to 7 years in prison for professor

February 13, 2008 7:09:59 PM PST
An Ivy League professor initially placed on house arrest for sexually assaulting a graduate student was resentenced Wednesday to 3½ to seven years in prison by a judge who called the crime "breathtaking in its vileness."

Tracy McIntosh, an acclaimed brain researcher who once held an endowed chair at the University of Pennsylvania, was accused of drugging and raping the niece of a college friend as he showed the young woman around campus.

McIntosh pleaded no contest in 2004 to felony sexual assault and marijuana possession. In court Wednesday, he denied raping the victim.

"I mistook your trust and openness for physical attraction," he said.

McIntosh had taken the woman out for several drinks in September 2002 until she became ill and vomited. He then brought her back to his Penn office, gave her marijuana, put her on a couch and raped her, prosecutors say.

McIntosh, 54, of Media, is married and has two daughters not much younger than the victim. He said he had pleaded only because of a deal that would allow him to avoid jail time. In March 2005, he was sentenced to house arrest.

Prosecutors, however, said they had no such deal and appealed the sentence. A state appeals court agreed, saying the judge had treated McIntosh more like a "school boy" than a criminal.

Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe, who took over the case, saw things differently on Wednesday.

"It's breathtaking in its vileness," Dembe said of McIntosh's actions. "I can think of no circumstance in which it is appropriate to victimize a child who's the next best thing to a relative."

The judge earlier in the day refused a last-minute attempt by the defense to withdraw the no-contest plea. After sentencing McIntosh, she immediately revoked his bail.

The 28-year-old victim, now a fourth-year veterinary student at Penn, watched as McIntosh was handcuffed and taken to jail.

He acknowledged "inappropriate" and "shameful" behavior, but denied drugging or raping her.

A string of character witnesses - neighbors, church friends, a colleague and McIntosh's wife, Cynthia - described McIntosh in 2002 as an arrogant, self-centered philanderer. But they said he had transformed himself during his five-year legal battle, when McIntosh spent six months on house arrest and picked up trash as part of a community service requirement.

They suggested that the ordeal had been just as harrowing for him as for the victim.

"Are you telling me that no one ever encourages a man and then regrets it later?" neighbor Deborah B. Sloman testified.

The victim, sobbing, ran from the courtroom.

The prolonged case has forced the victim's parents and uncle to repeatedly fly to Philadelphia for several rounds of court hearings.

"What you did was to rape a vomiting, incapacitated 23-year-old girl who looked at you like a mentor," the victim testified.

"There's no way I would be here five years after the fact ...

if that had not happened," she said.

She said she came forward to prevent McIntosh from attacking any other women.

As part of a civil suit she filed against Penn, she unearthed reports that showed that numerous other women in McIntosh's research laboratory had complained about his sexual advances. Their complaints led to an intervention with him in November 2002, two months after the assault.

The civil suit, which also named McIntosh and several university officials as defendants, was settled confidentially. The victim charged in the suit that she pursued criminal charges after the university failed to act on an internal complaint.

Penn forced McIntosh, head of its Head Injury Research Center, to resign after his no-contest plea.

McIntosh plans to appeal Dembe's decision not to let him revoke his plea.

He previously worked at Boston University, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Connecticut.