One young man is going to prison.
One boy is dealing with a world turned terrifying after he was sexually assaulted.
Two families remain in pain.
No one will ever be the same.
All that pain was on display Thursday in Rock County Court as Dakota R. Potts, 20, was sentenced to six years in prison and another nine years of supervised release for the rape of a child in a Monterey Park restroom in July 2018.
“I lost so much sleep. I still have nightmares,” said his victim in a letter read by Assistant District Attorney Rich Sullivan. “While you were raping me, I felt betrayed, invaded, helpless and powerless.”
Therapy has helped, the boy said, and he wanted Potts to stay in prison until the boy turns 20 so he can feel safe. Family members asked Potts be held at least until the boy completes high school.
The boy spoke after the letter was read, telling Potts he hopes he gets the help he needs. The boy’s father and father’s wife said the same. Sullivan said he had never witnessed such a gracious family in the face of such a crime.
They offered that grace even with the boy recently revealing that Potts had sexually assaulted him on another occasion, when another juvenile also participated in the assault.
Sullivan called the boy a hero for that revelation and his forgiveness.
It’s normal for children who have suffered this trauma to reveal things gradually as they become confident that it’s OK to do so, Sullivan said.
Sullivan recommended five years in prison plus 10 years of supervised release.
A friend of the family spoke, calling the boy a hero for stopping possible future assaults by Potts.
The father said he had “extreme hatred” for Potts at the beginning: “In the beginning I had nightmares about what I would do to you if I ever saw you.”
The father spoke through sniffles behind his mask, saying he hoped things would work out well for Potts and hoped God would help him.
None of those who spoke were identified by name to protect them, Judge Barbara McCrory said.
The boy was 9 at the time of the assault. Potts was 17. He has autism, Tourette’s syndrome and depression and has been hospitalized with suicidal thoughts, McCrory said.
Defense attorney Walter Isaacson recommended 10 years of probation, starting with one year in jail. He said Potts needs individualized therapy he couldn’t get in prison.
Isaacson said students beat up Potts nearly every day at school: “Dakota has been a victim for most of his life at school, at work, in his neighborhood because of his disability. I guess that’s the way our society sometimes treats people who are different.”
He also was picked on in jail, but jailers did a good job of protecting him from harm, if not from threats and harassment, Isaacson said.
“I will never forgive myself for what I did,” Potts said, and after a long pause: “I don’t expect any forgiveness from them, and I will do what is necessary to be a productive person in society.”
McCrory said the family already has shown a measure of forgiveness.
McCrory said she has a son who works for the Early Autism Project and a nephew who has autism. She quoted research suggesting the parts of the brain that handle knowing right from wrong and impulse control are not fully developed until the mid 20s.
But Potts has anger issues, emotionally identifies with children and has deviant sexual impulses, McCrory said, pointing to an evaluation that found Potts has an above average risk of reoffending.
Potts will get credit for 637 days he spent in jail, knocking off nearly two years from his six-year sentence. He will be on the sex offender list for life.
McCrory did not make Potts eligible for prison programs that could have reduced his sentence.
“There is redemption, and there is opportunity to move forward in your life, and that’s what you need to do,” she told Potts.