A man who pleaded guilty in January to 20 counts of level 4 felony child molestation related to as many victims has been sentenced to 120 years in prison, 20 of which to be served on probation.
[Offender], 19, appeared in [county court] Friday morning, when presiding [Judge] passed down the sentence after hearing victims' statements from eight family members.
[Offender] could have served between two and 120 years; [defense attorney] had requested the minimum to be 40 years; [prosecutor] had requested the full 120.
The earliest he could be released without good time credit is Dec 2, 2117. With good time credit, his earliest release date is 2098.
“I'm very happy with what the judge had to say for the sentencing today,” one mother said when leaving the hearing, adding that it was “very therapeutic and very emotional to hear that other parents had to go through the same thing, and to share our own story.”
[Offender] was first arrested in [date] on two level 1 felonies of child molestation. He was released pretrial, a time during which 20 more charges were filed related to multiple more victims of incidents which took place either at the [organization] or [organization] in [county] between January and October of that year.
He was ultimately charged with 27 level 1 felonies, and entered a plea agreement in January to 20 of the charges, all modified to level 4 felonies.
Nearly 100 people filled the courtroom Friday — many were family of the victims, all girls between the ages of 3 and 8 years old. Emotions rose quietly across the room as each family recognized their loved ones' initials as the judge read the list of charges.
[Offender] gave a statement, telling the court and the families that he was “sorry for hurting each of these girls when I should have been helping them,” he said. “…I hope they can move on and be happy again.”
But the parents and other family members who spoke say they don't know if or when that can happen. Prior to sentencing, [prosecutor] called nine witnesses to testify, all family members of victims, who tearfully read prepared statements shedding light on what [offender's] crimes had done to the little girls, and to the families.
Some of the girls had become withdrawn, stopped eating and started having nightmares, parents testified. Some had developed low-self esteem, had become mistrustful of men who were not family members and had become stunted. One mother said her daughter had regressed, starting to use baby talk and play with baby toys even though she is well older than that.
Another parent said after the abuse and allegations came out, the family tried to have a little getaway to try to restore some normalcy. But on that trip, they heard the song “[name of song],” which the mother said immediately turned the child upside down, reliving what had happened to her while in a childcare program at one.
“He took our daughter's innocence too soon,” she said. “And that is something she will never get back. You have taken so much, saying 'sorry' is not enough. You make me sick to my core.”
Some parents spoke of the guilt they felt at what they perceived as a failure as parents to protect their children.
“This child predator has stolen something very precious from our children,” one parent said. “I tried to protect my daughter. Ultimately, I failed.”
The families requested the judge pass down the full 120 years, saying they believed that because he was so young when the continued abuse occurred, that he was beyond rehabilitation and would always be a danger to children if released.
“He either knew he was going to get away with this, or he just didn't care,” one woman said, asking if the first child had not come forward, “How much more would this monster inside of him had grown?”
[Defense attorney] said she understood the extreme stress this has put families under, but said she still had legal and ethical obligations when making her case for the mitigating and aggravating circumstances prior to sentencing.
“I want the families to know that my job is dictated by law,” she said.
[Defense attorney] argued that pre-sentence investigation was not neutral in its recommendation for the full 120 years, adding that the victims' ages being under 14 should not be used as mitigating factors, as it was already listed as a part of each charge.
[Defense attorney] asked for four years per count, which if some were to run concurrent, would mean a minimum of 40 years.
[Prosecutor] said in 20 years practicing, he had never seen so many people affected by a case, and that the maximum term broken down by victim would mean [offender] would serve six years for each.
“I don't think that can be viewed as vindictive or outrageous,” [prosecutor] said in court. “I think justice would require such a sentence.”
[Defense attorney] said after the hearing that [offender] had been prepared for the full sentence if that's what happened, but added she saw some hope in part of it being on probation.
“I think the fact that the judge gave a sentence with some probation is a positive,” [defense attorney] said. “However, we disagree with several of the aggravators; we don't think they are statutorily correct and/or correct in the law. So there will be an appeal as to the sentence.”
[Defense attorney] added that she hopes that all families involved can start to get some healing as the case has been completed.
“These cases are never easy,” she said. “Every family is hurting, even [offender's] family. We want the healing process to begin, we think it's important for everybody to get counseling, not just the families of the victim but also the [offender's] family.
"He's very sorry for all of his actions. He's had a very tough time with this and has wanted to move forward. He has some mental issues that we haven't been able to get the analysis complete so hopefully while in prison he can deal with some of those issues he is struggling with.”
[Prosecutor] said after the hearing that he feels the sentence is appropriate.
“He will be in his 90s before he ever sees the light of day again,” he said. “What my objective has been…has been getting a sentence that ensures that he was never able to get out and hurt anyone again.
"Because of the way he went about this, because of the number of victims, I had a strong fear, the family members had a strong fear, that he was going to molest again if he got out. With 100 years, I think people are safe.”