Fredonia woman’s plea for leniency rejected by judge who calls crimes committed against 12-year-old repulsive
The lawyer representing a Fredonia woman who subjected her 12-year-old daughter to a sexual assault at the hands of her husband didn’t try to explain his client’s crimes but argued last week that she certainly didn’t deserve the 20-year prison sentence recommended by Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol.
“I think this is a prison case, but attorney Gerol gives short shrift to the type of individual she was at the time,” said William Mayer, the woman’s attorney, adding that she suffered a “verbal and mental beat-down” at the hands of her husband and exhibited symptoms of domestic abuse. A sentence of 7-1/2 years in prison would be more appropriate, he said.
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams disagreed.
“This is one of those cases that, quite frankly, is repulsive,” Williams said. “Repulsive is the only way to describe it.”
Williams sentenced the woman, who Ozaukee Press is not naming to protect the victim, to 22-1/2 years in prison followed by 15 years of extended supervision.
“A person gives birth to a child and society expects that person to provide shelter, basic necessities, food, education, love and protection,” the judge said. “You might have provided some of those things, but your actions show you didn’t provide the love or the protection.”
Instead, the woman “sat on the bed while her husband sexually assaulted her 12-year-old daughter and didn’t do a thing,” Williams said.
The woman, 37, pleaded no contest in May to felony crimes of failure to protect a child from sexual assault, being party to the crime of first-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 13 and child enticement-sexual contact.
A week earlier, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy sentenced the woman’s 45-year-old husband to 35 years in prison followed by 20 years of extended supervision for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter, who was “served up” to him by her mother as some sort of perverse birthday gift, Gerol said.
“This was a 12-year-old girl,” Gerol said. “She should never have been exposed to something like this.”
A jury deliberated less than two hours in February before finding the man guilty of first-degree sexual assault of a child and incest with a child by a stepparent. Gerol called the trial remarkable not only because of the testimony provided by the young victim but because her mother also testified against her husband.
During the trial, the girl told jurors that on April 1, 2013 — her stepfather’s 44th birthday — her mother led her into the master bedroom of the family’s Fredonia apartment, where her stepfather was waiting.
“She (her mother) said, ‘We’re going to give your daddy a special birthday gift,’” the girl, now 13, told jurors. “I said, ‘I don’t want to, mommy,’ but she said, ‘Do this just for once.’”
The girl’s mother told jurors she was depressed and overworked and finally gave in to her husband’s incessant requests to have sex with one of her daughters. She said she lay curled up on the bed with her husband and daughter until the assault was over.
“In late-reporting cases like this, it always comes down to a matter of credibility,” Gerol said during the sentencing. “Her (the mother’s) testimony was extremely useful.”
By late reporting, Gerol meant that the assault was not reported until about two month after it occurred, when the victim and her older sister were visiting their biological father in Illinois and the older girl alluded to the assault.
Gerol said the mother’s first instinct was to protect herself. During a phone conversation with her daughter, the woman said, “‘It’s not going to happen again,’” Gerol said. “(The girl’s mother) wanted her to shut up. She got in the car and was going to pick her up.”
The woman eventually admitted the assault occurred, and Gerol said he was struck by the moment in an interview in which a detective told the woman she would have to find a way to live with herself.
Gerol said he contacted the woman’s attorney and asked if she would testify against her husband to “do something — far too little, far too late — but something to make amends.”
Gerol said he offered nothing in return to a woman who abdicated “the most fundamental directive of a parent” except some personal sense of redemption.
“Nothing can excuse what happened here — nothing,” he said. “There is a need to protect the public. With a fairly lengthy sentence, it’s clear this defendant won’t have any more children.”
But Mayer said his client does deserve consideration because she testified against a man she feared without asking once what was in it for her.
“She was scared of taking the stand because she’d have to get up in front of (her husband) and look him in the eye,” he said. “But she did it, and she didn’t use her daughter as a bargaining chip.”
The judge, however, described the woman’s decision to testify as self-serving.
“That testimony you offered was the only way you were going to be able to survive,” Williams said. “Somehow you had to deal with the fact that the monster inside of you allowed this to happen to your daughter. It was your way of atoning for what you did.”
During the sentencing of the woman’s husband in May, his lawyer, Perry Lieuallen, blamed the wife for the assault.
“The wife, the (girl’s) mother, is the devil,” Lieuallen said. “This is a horrible crime. This is a crime orchestrated by one person — his wife.”
Last week, Mayer worked hard to differentiate his client’s crimes with those of her husband, at one point using the analogy of a bank robber and a getaway driver.
“One person goes into a bank, shoots the place up and maybe takes someone’s life,” he said. “Then you have the wheelman waiting outside. I would characterize (her) as the wheelman.
“As they say, the fish stinks from the head on down, and (her husband) was the head of this household.”
Mayer said the woman’s husband was another in a series of men, starting with her father and including her first husband, who belittled her. A psychological exam revealed that she was passive and had low self-esteem, similar to a victim of domestic abuse, he said.
“She has a need to place herself in situations where she’ll suffer,” Mayer said.
But again, the judge wasn’t buying it.
Noting that the woman had the confidence to kick her first husband out of their home after she discovered he was being unfaithful, Williams said, “Psychologists can give an explanation for anyone’s behavior. He (her current husband) is truly evil, but you didn’t kick him out.
You allowed this to happen, and there’s no question how severe and awful these crimes were.”
Williams also took issue with Mayer’s bank robber analogy.
“The problem with the analogy is that the bank robber doesn’t know the person he shoots,” the judge told the woman. “The victim in this case is your flesh and blood. You gave birth to the victim in this case.”
Sobbing, the woman was too emotional to speak during her sentencing, but Mayer read a short statement she wrote.
“I want to be a mother my kids can be proud of,” she wrote.
Williams responded by saying, “The one thing I didn’t hear is, ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to (my daughter.)’”
At Gerol’s request, Williams ordered the woman not to have contact with her daughter unless the girl requests it and it’s approved by the woman’s probation agent. In addition, the judge ordered the woman not to have contact with anyone younger than 18.