Beloit boy gets 15 years in prison for brutal assault of elderly woman
JANESVILLE -- A Beloit teen convicted of what a prosecutor called "monstrous acts" of "absolute savagery" in the rape of an 86-year-old woman was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison.
“This is a high-risk monster," Assistant District Attorney Rich Sullivan told the court. "If this doesn't call for a maximum sentence, we might as well not have maximum sentences.”
Sullivan described how Christopher E. Brooks Jr. raped the woman, forcing her into sexual acts and biting her deeply, leaving behind his DNA, on July 23, 2016.
Then he demanded money, and when she couldn't produce any, he beat her savagely with her own cane, Sullivan said.
The woman is small, less than 5 feet tall, and could not fight back, so she feigned unconsciousness, and Brooks left, Sullivan said.
Judge Michael Haakenson imposed a 15-year prison sentence on Brooks, 16.
But Haakenson indicated there's still hope for Brooks.
“I don't think you're a monster, but you have a problem,” Haakenson told Brooks after Haakenson passed sentence in Rock County Court.
“... I think you've got some potential. I'm not throwing you away, all right? Nobody here is throwing you away. But you need to get some help. When you get out, you need to apply those tools so we don't see you again, at least we don't want to see you in the criminal system. I'd love to see you on the news because you're doing positive things, you're making a difference in your community in a good way.”
Haakenson's words came after the prosecutor and defense attorney argued for many more and many fewer years in prison, respectively.
Sullivan asked for 25 years in prison plus 15 years of extended supervision, the maximum possible.
Sullivan delivered an envelope of photos showing the injuries Brooks inflicted on the victim, which he said “show the absolute savagery, the monstrous acts Mr. Brooks did to this woman, at the time 86, now 87 years old.”
Defense attorney Ashley Morse later choked up as she noted Brooks' mother was behind her, crying as Sullivan called her son a monster.
Sullivan said he meant to call the acts monstrous, not Brooks.
The 87-year-old woman, “tough as nails,” insists on remaining in her house, where she has put a throw rug over a stubborn carpet stain from the assault and has installed a security system, Sullivan said.
The woman is hard of hearing, so the security system sounds a loud alarm as she enters each room, and she must re-set it, Sullivan said.
The woman knew Brooks as he grew up and would give him money when he carried groceries into her house, Sullivan said.
The woman decided not to ask for restitution, Sullivan said.
“I hope he was on something,” the woman told Sullivan, and he was, alcohol and marijuana, Brooks admitted.
But Sullivan said that when asked why he attacked the woman, Brooks said he didn't know, he wasn't sexually attracted to her, he hit her out of frustration, and it “just happened.”
Those remarks show his cavalier attitude about the crime and that he is a danger to society, Sullivan said.
Brooks has admitted to binge drinking and having 20 sexual partners and behaviors “that are certainly not limited by social norms,” Sullivan said.
Morse said Brooks is still a child, and she noted brain research shows teenagers do not have the reasoning abilities or impulse control of adults. Brooks was 15 at the time of the crime.
Morse cited the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2005 case Roper v. Simmons, in which the court forbade the death penalty for juveniles.
Juveniles should be treated differently from adults because they lack maturity and have “an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,” Kennedy wrote, making it “less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character.”
Morse noted Brooks has trouble expressing himself, which she said explains what Sullivan called his “cavalier” attitude about the crime.
Morse cited research that indicates juvenile sex offenders rarely commit that crime again. She noted he will be punished by being a felon and having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Brooks was charged with burglary while committing battery, aggravated battery of an elderly person and second-degree sexual assault with use of force. The first two charges were dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to the last charge as part of a plea agreement.
If Brooks had been tried on this charge in juvenile court the maximum prison sentence would be five years, Morse said, and that's what he should get.
Sullivan countered that a judge had already ruled that for purposes of this case, Brooks is an adult, and the juvenile justice system does not apply.
Brooks feels “horrible' about what he did, Morse said. She noted that juveniles in adult prison are likely to suffer violence in prison and to be violent to themselves or others when they get out.
Haakenson said he did not fully appreciate the brutality of the assault until he saw the photos Thursday.
No one else in the courtroom saw the photos, and at Sullivan's urging, Haakenson sealed them because of their intimate nature.
Haakenson said the victim “struggles in her faith,” now, which he called a “significant injury,” as well.
Haakenson said the maximum prison sentence would be appropriate for a 40-year-old who planned such an crime but not for someone as young as Brooks.
Haakenson noted Brooks has Crone's disease and was diagnosed with depressive and anxiety symptoms, although the school system did not give him special-education services for that.
Brooks thinks he should be punished, and he acknowledges he has a problem with anger, Haakenson noted from the presentence investigation.
Brooks was granted 418 days of sentence credit for time already served in jail.
Haakenson denied Brooks access to in-prison programs that could lead to an early release.
Brooks can ask a judge to review the case and release him earlier, however.