A judge sentenced serial rapist Nathaniel Tyler to 25 years in prison Friday after he pleaded guilty to sexual assaults on three of the five women he was charged with attacking on the Charleston peninsula.
The 48-year-old homeless man and registered sex offender, also known as Nathaniel Wilson, appeared in a Charleston County courtroom shackled at the waist and ankles. His expression stayed flat and emotionless as prosecutors described how he’d raped, choked and terrorized women who had the misfortune of crossing his path.
One victim told Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald that she has scars on her legs from jumping through a window to escape Tyler, leaving wounds that required 17 stitches to close. She said she supported the plea but hopes Tyler will never again see freedom.
“I think he is a violent person and he deserves every day he gets,” she said. “I don’t think he should ever be allowed to hurt another woman ever. He has done enough damage.”
Under a negotiated agreement, Tyler pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping and one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct.
In return for his plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges related to the two remaining attacks with which he had been charged.
Tyler, a short, stocky man with a nest of wiry hair, had faced up to life in prison if he rolled the dice, went to trial and was convicted. Assistant Solicitor Timmy Finch said prosecutors agreed to a plea, in part, to spare Tyler’s victims from having to testify.
For all practical purposes, however, this likely will be a life sentence for Tyler. Though he will be eligible for release after serving 85 percent of his term, authorities will almost certainly seek to have him civilly committed under the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Act, meaning he could be locked up indefinitely while receiving treatment.
Four of the five women Tyler was charged with attacking attended the court hearing, which was delayed for more than two hours after Tyler waffled on whether or not to accept the negotiated plea.
He had expressed similar indecision a week earlier, and prosecutors weren’t sure what he would do when he arrived at court Friday.
One condition of his accepting the plea was that he would be convicted as Nathaniel Tyler, which he insisted was his real name. He had been arrested and charged as Nathaniel Wilson, which he maintained was an alias.
Only one of the women addressed the court and she briefly flinched when Tyler turned around and stared at her. McDonald ordered Tyler to face forward and look away from the woman.
Tyler, whose criminal record dates to 1982 and includes a previous sexual assault in Richland County, told the judge he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He did not offer apologies to his victims or express remorse for his actions.
But Public Defender Ashley Pennington, one of his lawyers, said Tyler understands and takes responsibility for his actions. He hopes to avail himself of treatment for his problems while incarcerated.
Tyler has been jailed since August 2012, when he was charged with holding a woman captive and fondling her for four hours. That ordeal ended at a convenience store when the woman mouthed the words “help me” to a clerk, who called police, authorities said.
In September, Charleston police charged Tyler again, this time in connection with an April 28, 2012, attack in which a woman was jumped from behind as she walked from a friend’s home on Line Street. Police said DNA samples linked Tyler to the attack on the woman.
Investigators charged Tyler again in October after they said they had linked him to a July 20, 2012, sexual assault on Line Street. That victim told police the suspect lured her to an abandoned house with the promise of a beer, then raped her, authorities said.
In November, he was charged in a July 22, 2012, incident in which a woman reported being attacked by an acquaintance while having beers at her home, police said. When she came out of the bathroom, the man confronted her with a knife, tossed her on the bed and sexually assaulted her, according to a police report.
DNA evidence later linked him to a Feb. 29, 2012 attack in which a 26-year-old woman told police she was raped by a man in a field under the Interstate 26 overpass near the intersection of Meeting and Lee streets.
Under the negotiated plea, he admitted to the April 2012 attack and the two sexual assaults in July of that year.
Tyler became a registered sex offender in South Carolina following a 1982 rape in Richland County for which he was convicted, State Law Enforcement Division records show. Due to its age, additional details and records from that case are not available, officials have said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.