Elkhorn man sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl

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Andrea Anderson
Monday, January 12, 2015

ELKHORN—A 19-year-old Elkhorn man who with two other men sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in an Elkhorn basement will not be required to register as a sex offender despite pleas from the victim's family.

Judge James Carlson on Monday sentenced Nicholas T. Cook, 19, to six months in jail and four-and-a-half years probation after Cook pleaded guilty Nov. 4 to sexual assault of a child younger than 16.

State statutes in some circumstances allow a judge to decide whether a person convicted of sexual assault must register as a sex offender.

Carlson said the registry is not a punishment but a tool to protect the community.

He said the crime committed was “disgusting,” but he felt Cook was not a threat to the community because it was an isolated incident and Cook has no criminal history.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed not to argue for or against sex offender registration.

Cook, of 408 W. Centralia St., is one of three Elkhorn men convicted of assaulting the girl in Cook's basement Dec. 21, 2013.

Gage A. Timmer, 19, of 433 W. Court St., and Braden D. Mann, 19, of W5244 County ES, pleaded guilty to similar charges.

The incident has divided the community, defense attorney Jenelle Glasbrenner said.

“We have members of the same community divided by an aisle in a courtroom where people have striking views about who's right and who's wrong,” she said.

Timmer, Mann and Cook are well known last names in Walworth County, several people told The Gazette.

Since charges were filed in February, four Walworth County judges were substituted at the request of the defense or have recused themselves because of personal relationships with the defendants or the defendants' families, according to court records.

Carlson presides over Cook and Mann's cases. Racine County Judge Allan Torhorst presides over Timmer's case.

All three defendants graduated from Elkhorn Area High School in 2014 where the victim also went to school.

The victim and her family have since moved to a community about 200 miles northwest of Elkhorn, according to court documents.

The victim's mother told the judge Monday that her daughter came home from school crying after the incident was reported, and they had to move because they felt targeted in the community.

“We as a family made the decision to move away and give her a fresh start, a fair chance at a life--a life a teenage girl is supposed to live,” the mother said through tears.

The girl sent a message to Mann via Facebook on Dec. 21, 2013, asking if he would go out with her. Mann responded that if he picked her up, she would have to have sex with all three of them, according to court documents.

She agreed. When Mann picked her up, she was given alcohol to drink before each of the men had sex with the girl individually in Cook's basement that night, according to criminal complaints and court documents.

All three later admitted to Thomas Bushey, Elkhorn police detective, that they had sexual contact with the girl in the basement that day, according to court documents.

The girl later tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection, which led to the incident being reported, according to court documents.

Timmer was scheduled to be sentenced Monday morning, but Torhorst granted a request to postpone the sentencing to March because Timmer's attorney took issue with the presentence investigation's recommendations.

Timmer and his family cried after his appearance was adjourned earlier Monday.

Dozens of family and friends filled the left side of the courtroom for both Timmer's and Cook's appearances. The victim's parents, family and friends sat on the right side of the room and were visibly emotional.

Prosecutor Haley Rea played a recording of what she said was Cook, Timmer and Mann asking the victim how she felt after the sex. Vulgar language was audible, and the victim could be heard slurring her words.

“Unfortunately, our society today almost promotes this type of promiscuous behavior on both sides,” Glasbrenner said.

Before being sentenced, Cook stood and addressed the court.

Holding back sobs and in a strained voice, he apologized to the victim's family and his own.

“I agonize over this night everyday since,” Cook said. “I accept responsibility for my actions … I've learned so much from this experience. I guarantee you something like this will never happen again … I'm better than the immature kid who made a poor decision Dec. 21.”

Mann will appear in court at 8:15 a.m. Monday, March 9, at the Walworth County Judicial Center. Timmer will appear at 1:30 p.m. the same day.

Both are free on signature bonds.

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