posted on sat, feb. 19, 2005

man gets prison for attacking girl

inquirer staff writer

the homeless man who tried to rape an 8-year-old girl and left her for dead in the bathroom of a center city public library last year devastated the child, her parents, and their chinatown community.

but the impact of that one man and his horrific crime also continues to affect the entire city, common pleas court judge pamela pryor dembe said yesterday. the subsequent expense of posting security guards, in part, has led to recent cutbacks in service and hours at library branches around philadelphia.

"what kind of society have we become?" the judge wondered aloud before she sentenced brian mccutchen to 35 to 70 years in prison.

"he is horrifyingly dangerous to small, female children," dembe said. "i need to make sure he can never do this again.

"... everything that i see here convinces me that he will continue to be dangerous. he is a predator in the truest sense of the word," she said.

"all [of the libraries' good work] is at risk because of what one man did," added dembe, a former board member of friends of the free library.

in addition to the lengthy sentence, dembe ordered mccutchen, 24, to participate in sex-offender treatment in prison, and to spend 10 years on probation after his release.

the girl's parents sat close together in the front row of the courtroom, and the mother openly wept when dembe issued the sentence. the judge also spoke about the suffering of the girl, now 9, and her family.

"i am convinced that this young victim will have emotional problems - probably for the rest of her life," dembe said.

assistant district attorney deborah harley told the judge: "the violence of this crime is unspeakable. no words can describe what this little girl went through... . it was an unfinished murder.

"... as soon as this little girl screamed, he grabbed her neck and squeezed what he thought was the life out of her. and then, when she was limp, he pulled down his pants, and pulled down her pants, and tried to rape her," harley said.

the child was found unconscious and partially undressed, wedged between a toilet and a wall at the independence branch library on seventh street near market. she was hospitalized in critical condition after the feb. 7, 2004, attack.

mccutchen's dna was later found on the girl's clothing, harley said.

harley said that one year later, the girl and her parents continue to suffer.

"she is unable to dress herself. she is unable to feed herself. she is afraid to go anywhere alone," harley said. "she is afraid to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night - she wakes up her mother - because she is afraid."

mccutchen bowed his head and cried as he addressed the judge, asking for treatment and a "second chance."

"i know that there's no excuse for what i've done, and not even a good explanation. and i know that nothing i could ever do or say would make up for the pain i've caused that little girl and her family," he said in a low voice.

"for what it's worth, i'm sorry for what i did," mccutchen said.

his attorney, assistant defender everett gillison, told the judge that while the crime was heinous, his client took responsibility by pleading guilty last year to attempted murder, attempted rape and related crimes.

mccutchen has a past of abuse, mental illness and homelessness, gillison said.

"this is not a person that is a monster. this is a person who struggles, and struggled with what his response should be when he realized what he had done," gillison said.

mccutchen had served six months for a july 2000 attack on a 9-year-old girl in a restroom at manayunk's venice island recreation center.

staff at city libraries reported to authorities that before the attack last year, mccutchen had been repeatedly kicked out of libraries for viewing pornography on the internet and publicly masturbating.

contact staff writer jacqueline soteropoulos at 215-854-4497 or

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