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May 28, 2018

Sad uncertain realities behind ugly headline about child rape sentencing

The headline of this story understandably caught my attention and had me wondering: "California man sentenced to 90 days of house arrest for rape of 5-year-old girl."  A bit of digging revealed, via press reports here and here, a bit more of the story behind the story that would seem to partially explain this outcome.  Excerpts below come from the two linked pieces, respectively:

A 79-year-old man who pleaded no contest to felony statutory rape of a child was sentenced this week to 90 days' detention and will not have to register as a sex offender. The sentence upset the parents after they gave emotional testimony at the hearing....

Despite the word "rape," the crime did not involve penetration, said Robert Himelblau, supervising deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County. Gregory Davenport, an attorney for Burgess, said the charge is based on a claim by the girl's mother that she saw Burgess stick his hand down her daughter's pants in 2016.

At the hearing, the judge reminded the parents that they thought the plea agreement was fair when it was reached.... Davenport told the Associated Press on Friday that Burgess accepted the plea deal despite being innocent because he is in frail health and wanted to move on with his life. Burgess denies ever touching the child inappropriately. "The whole case was based upon some minor touching that my client denied even occurred," Davenport said....

Lyle Burgess, 79, was sentenced by San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Ron Northup to either 90 days in an alternative-work program or in-home detention plus five years of informal probation. He does not have to register as a sex offender.

Burgess, who founded Rare Parts Inc. in Stockton in 1981 — an automotive parts manufacturer and distributor — will in all likelihood opt for in-home detention due to his frail physical and mental health, according to defense attorney Gregory Davenport. “My client maintains his innocence,” Davenport said outside the courtroom.

During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, both parents of the victim gave emotional testimony about what their daughter has been going through, the impact on their family and their dissatisfaction with Burgess’ conviction. The parents’ names are not being used to protect the identity of the minor victim. “Our daughter has been harmed by this man continuously,” the victim’s mother said through tears, describing two incidents she says she witnessed between Burgess and her daughter at Burgess’ cabin in Calaveras County in the fall of 2016.

“I’m incredibly disgusted by his behavior and continuously disgusted by his lies,” she said before describing his sentence as “getting off so easy” and not registering as a sex offender. “I want other kids to be protected by possible future abuse by this man,” she said.

The victim’s father, who has known Burgess for more than two decades, said: “I don’t have too many prized possessions in this world other than my family. (My daughter) will remember this the rest of her life. She sleeps on the floor outside our room.”

Northup told the parents their statements do have an impact but “courts are somewhat limited” in ruling on a negotiated plea and reminded them that at the time it was reached, they felt it was fair.

The parents and the victim recently filed a civil case against Burgess seeking unspecified damages for sexual abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress.... Davenport, Burgess’s attorney, said: “I believe the allegations are motivated by greed. They are using this instance to try to gain financially.”

I do not know the ins-and-outs of California plea and sentencing procedure, but these articles suggest that the sentence here was largely determined by the terms of a plea deal (and one that the parents of the victim assented to).  This other local article, notably, provides this additional (confounding?) account of matters from the prosecutors:

According to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, Burgess' sentence was initiated by the county court because of his age and health.  When Burgess was arrested in 2016, he was originally booked on four counts of lewd acts upon a child.  The charge was later changed to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, though the DA says there were no allegations the girl was "sexually penetrated." Prosecutors say the plea deal was agreed upon by both Burgess and the girl's family.

I do not know what it means for this sentence to have been "initiated by the county court because of his age and health," but I do know it now sounds as if the sentencing judge largely attributes the outcome to the plea deal and the prosecutions largely attribute the plea deal to the sentencing judge.   As I see it,  sadness persists from every perspective in this case.  And I surmise from my Twitter feed that the case is generating anger, too, and I wonder if recall or other campaigns targeting the judge or DAs might be in the offing.

May 28, 2018 at 04:25 PM | Permalink


It's just not the same without Bill Otis using this as an opportunity to screech about how this is just another example of defense attorneys being pro-child rape.

Oh Bill, where have you gone!?!

Posted by: Anonuser879 | May 28, 2018 5:16:32 PM

The victim needs to be removed by child welfare authorities. She was delivered to the predator, and was not supervised well enough. Put this child in foster care.

Posted by: David Behar | May 28, 2018 10:18:57 PM

I miss Bill Otis also. He took on all omers on this site and I was one that enjoyed reading battle.

He is on to the Us sentenceing commission, so I heard.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | May 28, 2018 10:25:35 PM

Berman refuses to remove the vile personal attacks on Bill because they are made by libtards. Berman is totally biased.

Posted by: David Behar | May 28, 2018 11:46:40 PM

I am biased against your silly rants, David, that is true. I have repeatedly asked you to limit them. You have not, so I delete them.

Posted by: Doug B | May 29, 2018 9:19:41 AM

I am biased against bees. I've only ever encountered a fraction of the total bee population, but I judge the entire population of bees based on the behavior of those few bees. I'm not proud of myself. Oh, and bears...definitely biased against bears too.

Posted by: anonuser879 | May 29, 2018 9:46:51 AM

San Joaquin County routinely sentences petty theft to 10 days, when the defendant is black or brown, so Burgess must be white, and be part of the white power elite of San Joaquin County.

Posted by: Rocky Bay | May 30, 2018 2:54:59 PM

I’m a CA crim def Attorney. THIS IS JUST A GUESS but I think it’s a good one. It sounds as though the defendant has dementia. Neither the jails nor prisons are equipped to handle an inmate with this condition. It’s very possible he was even in the early stages when he engaged in the behavior. The DA pushed for prosecution for the benefit of his victim and her family, something which is understandable.

Believe me, San Joaquin Co courts are extremely conservative. Were he of sound mind, the court would have banished him long enough to ensure he died in prison.

Posted by: GAYLE Gutekunst | May 31, 2018 6:01:09 PM

Personally, I am so thoroughly sick of the stupid, stupid, very uninformed people who live in the U.S. who still have opinions. What is the average IQ in the U.S. anyway? The vast majority of people in our country are just stupid, awful, hateful people, are they not? I'm not a genius but I have enough sense to have an open mind at least and to realize that nearly every situation is very nuanced with many facts that I don't know. The vast majority of people just make me puke.

Anyway, it seems as financial gain is very often tied to these criminal cases. That ought to be fixed somehow. Anyone have any great ideas? Getting a person convicted of a crime should not help anyone in any way, financially or otherwise. Other than the "help" of just the person being punished, of course. People, private prisons, private probation companies, "counseling" companies, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., should never benefit from convicting people. Quite obviously it debases justice and destroys any moral superiority and respect it could and should have.

Bill Otis might've been a decent person, I didn't read enough from him to recall. But I do know that he was biased to the point that he sometimes would just ignore known facts. It destroyed his judgement and intelligence more than once. That is a big flaw.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Jun 1, 2018 8:57:50 AM

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