A Walworth man was sentenced Friday on child sexual assault and enticement charges to a prison term nearly equal to his age.
The cycle of sexual abuse led to the man who said he suffered physical and sexual assaults as a child to a sentence of 30 years in prison for trying to meet up with who he thought was a 15-year-old girl and allegedly sexually assaulting another girl repeatedly.
Lawrence C. Hisel Jr., 32, pleaded guilty June 21 to repeated sexual assault of a child, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, soliciting an intimate representation from a minor, child enticement and failure to update the sex offender registry.
Hisel, most recently of N1510 Six Corners Road, has a previous child sexual assault case on his record from 2008 that led to a sentence of one year in jail, five years of probation and an order to register as a sex offender.
He avoided a mandatory life sentence Friday because the plea agreement dropped the persistent repeater enhancer.
But Hisel, his attorney said, still denies the most recent allegations of repeatedly sexually assaulting a child. Fighting that charge while accepting the other charges that stemmed from communications with a detective pretending to be a teenage girl would have guaranteed Hisel died in prison.
Judge Phillip Koss, who also sentenced Hisel to 30 years of extended supervision, said he was “very concerned” with Hisel’s denial.
“Maybe it’s just me. I’m going to believe a victim rather than you,” Koss said Friday. “Maybe that’s crazy, but I don’t believe you.”
While mandatory life in prison was off the table, District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld still asked Koss to sentence Hisel to 50 years in prison.
Wiedenfeld opened his argument by saying Hisel “targets children to have sex with them.” The prosecutor laid out details from the recent rape allegations and the police investigation, which also showed Hisel sent messages about wanting to engage in sex acts with a girl he knew.
“He’s somebody who’s targeting these young girls, and there doesn’t seem to be anything to prevent him,” Wiedenfeld said.
“Hopefully by (the time he’s released from prison) he’s too old or frail to be a risk to the public.”
Mackenzie Renner, Hisel’s lawyer, said the life expectancy in prison is in the 70s. So, giving her client a 50-year term would have the same effect as a mandatory life sentence.
She emphasized that her client is more than his criminal record, citing more than a dozen letters of support from friends and family that praise his generosity, integrity and kindness.
Hisel told the court Friday he was finally able to get the right treatment and medication for what Renner said were previously incorrectly diagnosed mental health disorders.
“I’m a completely different person,” he said.
On top of leaving him with lasting effects to his mental health, the abuse Hisel suffered and witnessed as a child also created faulty models for how relationships work, Renner said.
When Hisel went through the court system more than a decade ago, Renner said, he was not medically treated well enough to adequately grow from his mistakes.
“It’s like asking a child to read something and learn from it when they’ve never been taught how to sit still long enough to read a paragraph,” she said.
But Renner acknowledged the emotional harm Hisel’s actions caused.
He knows he cannot change the past. Hisel said he was sorry for all the hurt he has caused to the victim, his family and anyone else.
While Koss took a few minutes to decide on his sentence, Hisel turned to speak with the small group of family and friends who came to support him. He wiped his eyes and at times he gave a slight smile.
Renner asked the judge to find justice for everyone involved and not just the prosecutor’s side of the courtroom.
But Koss, who questioned how the right medication could “magically” change Hisel’s behavior, said his sentence was also about giving justice to those outside the courtroom.
“It is to people I don’t know. It is to children that I have never met, who perhaps haven’t been born yet, are tiny,” he said. “And you’re just waiting to have access to them. And I can’t allow that for some lengthy period of time.”