An Omaha man accused of raping a 14-year-old South High School student was sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in prison.
Joseph A. Howell, 22, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Howell received a sentence of 36 to 40 months, with credit for 355 days served.
As a condition of a plea bargain, Howell must register as a sex offender. He has agreed not to associate with teenagers.
“I want to make sure that the circumstances and red flags are taken into account,” said Douglas County District Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf.
Howell, also known as “Panda,” met the 14-year-old girl in “smoker's alley,” an area where students at South High gather to smoke, according to court documents.
The girl told Omaha police that in February 2012, she skipped school and went with Howell to his nearby apartment, where they smoked cigarettes, watched television and had sex.
After returning to school in time to catch the bus, she told her mother, who called the police.
“I regret what I did, and if I could take it back, I would,” Howell said in a letter read by his attorney.
Because of his time served, Howell will be eligible for parole in 13 months.
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