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Contrasting futures for sex offenders

March 15, 2010|By ALICIA GALLEGOS Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Two offenders face vastly different fates after being sentenced Monday for their sex crimes against children. Gabriel Herbert, 22, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Mishawaka girl after luring her to his home last September. Holly Rhodes, 36, received a six-year suspended sentence and six years of probation after admitting to molesting and having intercourse with a 7-year-old boy over the course of several years. Both Rhodes and Herbert had no prior criminal history, and each readily admitted guilt for their actions. But Rhodes’ sentence was part of binding plea agreement with the state, meaning the punishment was pre-determined before a judge’s sentencing. Herbert, on the other hand, had an open plea, meaning his punishment could be argued by both sides. He faced up to 43 years in prison. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said Monday that aside for being sex crimes, he did not believe the two cases were similar, adding that certain circumstances in the Rhodes case affected her plea terms. "In one case you have a family member molesting (a relative), and in the other, you have a stranger picking up a girl on the street," he said. "I see no parallel." In the Herbert case, the man told the victim he was lost and asked for help finding a certain street. Once in the vehicle, Herbert told the girl he needed a map and drove her to his home, where the victim said he attacked and raped her. Herbert previously pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal deviate conduct, both Class B felonies, and one count of criminal confinement, a Class D felony. As part of the agreement, the state dismissed a count of rape against Herbert and three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. According to the prosecutor’s office, the original three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor were filed as "alternative theories of prosecution" to the rape charge and two counts of criminal deviate conduct. The counts relate to the same three acts alleged to have been committed by Herbert, not six separate acts. The court could only enter judgment of conviction and impose a sentence on one count for each of the alleged acts. In the Rhodes case, the woman admitted in court to Class C felony child molestation for inappropriately touching a young boy starting from the time he was about 7 years old. As part of a plea agreement, the state dismissed two counts of Class A felony child molestation against Rhodes. According to court documents, Rhodes began fondling the boy in the late 1990s, but the crime only came to light when the now-teenage boy spoke to officials at the CASIE Center, telling them he had been abused until age 10. The victim said the molestation had included sex acts and sexual intercourse. Dvorak said the boy revealed the molestation during the investigation of an unrelated sex crime in which he was a witness. The boy was called to testify in that unrelated case, and because of this, Dvorak said the boy’s family did not want him to go through another trial. Also at issue, Dvorak said, was Rhodes’ mental capacity. At previous court hearings, it was indicated that the woman’s mental state is diminished at some level, although she acknowledged she understood the charges against her. The victim’s family was well aware of the defendant’s mental capacity, Dvorak said, and comfortable with the lack of jail time included in the plea. Rhodes is undergoing sex offender counseling and, as part of the plea agreement, will be ordered to continue treatment. She will also have to register as a sex offender. ‘Violated in worst way’ Herbert sobbed throughout his sentencing Monday, expressing remorse for his actions. "I feel worse than garbage," he said. "I’m sorry. If I could take it back, I would." The young man was sentenced by St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Roland Chamblee Jr. to 10 years on each B felony and 18 months on the D felony, to run concurrently, or at the same time. His victim’s father spoke during the sentencing, telling the court his daughter will never be the same child. "She was just like every other kid. She went to school, she played outside, she went roller skating," the father said. "Now her life is changed. ... She made a choice to trust an adult, and she was violated in the worst way." Staff writer Alicia Gallegos: agallegos@sbtinfo.com (574) 235-6368

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