Wednesday, February 26
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge has sentenced a Wisconsin man to a total of five years in prison for sexually assaulting his severely abused younger stepsister and another girl in an unrelated case.
Judge Julie Genovese sentenced the 20-year-old Madison man Wednesday to three years for abusing his stepsister and two years for a December 2012 case involving a girl who was 15 years old at the time. The sentences will run consecutively.
The Associated Press isn't naming the man to protect his 17-year-old stepsister's identity.
Prosecutors were seeking sentences totaling 30 years in prison for the two cases, saying the man is a dangerous sexual predator.
His attorney, Ronald Benavides, argued for leniency, saying the offenses took place when his client was a teenager and that the girl who wasn't his stepsister had been his girlfriend for seven months. Benavides also pointed out that the man had to grow up in a house with "socially bizarre norms."
During a 40-minute statement to the judge Wednesday, the defendant said he deserves another chance.
"I need counseling. I need someone to talk to. I need help," he pleaded.
She told prosecutors that her father and stepmother kept her locked in the basement for about five years until her February 2012 rescue. They are each serving five-year prison sentences.
Prosecutors say her stepbrother sexually abused her on two occasions, first in December 2006, when she was 9 years old, and later in December 2009.
The case came to light in February 2012 when a passing motorist noticed the emaciated girl, who was 15 and weighed just 68 pounds, wandering the streets near her family's Madison home. She told doctors her parents kept her in the basement with boarded up windows, motion sensors and an alarm on the basement door.
The girl said her stepmother beat her, her stepbrother repeatedly forced her to perform oral sex on him and she was forced to eat her feces and drink her own urine.
The stepbrother's attorney, Ronald Benavides, told jurors during the trial that there were inconsistencies in the stepsister's story that should prevent jurors from believing her accusations. A school social worker became involved after the girl said something at her elementary school that led officials to believe she may have been being abused at home. The girl later told the social worker she wasn't actually sexually abused.
There was also a lack of physical evidence for the sexual assault charges, as doctors who examined the girl in 2012 said there was no evidence of sexual assault.
Genovese gave the stepmother a five-year term last summer after the woman pleaded no contest to reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child.
The girl's father went through two trials, and was ultimately convicted of child neglect, child abuse, reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child. At his sentencing hearing, he told the court that his daughter suffered from severe emotional and behavioral problems that he couldn't handle, that his trucker job kept him away from home and that he didn't notice how thin she had become. He got a matching five-year prison term.
The stepbrother previously pleaded no contest to sexual assault charges in another unrelated case in November 2011 and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was given credit for time-served and didn't have to spend any time behind bars.
A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for the purpose of sentencing.