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September 2014

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Sussex teen gets 22 months for sexual assault

Former HHS student pleads no contest to charges

Sussex teen Daniel Koepke, now 17, was sentenced Jan. 24 to 22 months in confinement with an additional five years of extended supervision.

Koepke pleaded no contest to two felony charges in November as part of a plea deal - he was found guilty of causing a child younger than 13 to view/listen to sexual activity and incest. The charges stemmed from an incident in July 2012 after he inappropriately touched a 5-year-old family member and masturbated in front of her while babysitting.

"You cannot assault, no matter how slight, a 5-year-old in the community. It is not tolerable," Washington County Judge Gonring concluded.

Gonring heard statements from families on both sides of the aisle and also considered reports from the presentence investigation, psychosexual analyses and separate counseling records. Because the presentence report recommended only probation, the state agreed not to recommend a sentence beyond five to seven years' initial confinement.

The victim's mother described how they were left with "a shell" of their daughter, saying, "Our spunky, carefree, loving daughter is gone." She said that her daughter, who used to love coloring, now only draws pictures of herself crying with big black X marks covering her private parts. And she shared her own reaction to her daughter's incident: flashbacks, anxiety, depression, panic attacks.

The victim's mother cried as she told the court what it was like to watch her daughter being "poked and prodded" during a rape test at the hospital.

The courtroom was divided, with half the family in support of Koepke and the other half in support of the victim.

Daniel Koepke, too, spoke briefly, saying, "All I can say is I'm sorry and I wish I could take it back."

Gonring said that while Koepke's young age and good record are factors, he also sought a sentence that would protect the public and address the totality of the crime. He noted risk assessment reports that showed that out of 100 offenders with similar scores, five to 10 were likely to reoffend.

Even though the presentence report recommended no jail time, Gonring sentenced Koepke to confinement for "the remainder of his teen years" - 22 months - followed by consecutive years of extended supervision. He will submit DNA samples, become registered on the sex offender database and seek out treatment in jail or in the community when able. He is prohibited from any contact with the victim's family, and is not to have any unsupervised contact with girls younger than 18.

"You were in a position of trust on that day in July of 2012. You were her caregiver. It concerns me that it occurred on the first day that you were in a babysitting capacity," Gonring said.

Koepke was also ordered to pay restitution, estimated at about $15,000, in court fees and therapy sessions. A restitution hearing has been requested.

"There is no doubt that (the victim) was a bright, happy, outgoing, intelligent little girl ... to read some of the comments, to hear how she has changed, is heartbreaking," Gonring said.

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