2007-11-21

How does this happen in America?

He at 13 raped a 6 year old girl. Now he will spend literally the rest of his life in jail. Is the sentence too harsh? I don't know looking at the case it seems no. I have highlighted the parts that show the victim's damages.

What makes a 13 year do this? Are young kids today more violent than we ever were? Are they sexualized more? Do they feel more powerless? Why would he do this? What caused him to act out in a such a violent way?

Sherman Burnett

Teen gets 60 years for attack on girl
By William C. Lhotka
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Nov. 16 2007

St. Louis County — A child beaten nearly to death in a 2005 sexual assault in
Spanish Lake asked a judge to send the teen who did it to prison for 60 years.

That's exactly what Circuit Judge Melvyn W. Wiesman did Thursday, ordering
consecutive terms that add up to 60 years for Sherman Burnett Jr., 15. He will
not be eligible for parole until at least 2056.

Wiesman said he took the 8-year-old girl's recommendation into consideration.

The victim, who sat in the front row with her mother, did not testify at
Thursday's sentencing hearing in St. Louis County Circuit Court. But she wrote
to Wiesman on Sept. 25: "I want for him to go away for 60 years. Because wen he
gets out he won't hurt any other person."

The girl was 6 and Burnett 13 when he attacked her Nov. 11, 2005, in the
neighborhood where both lived. He was charged as an adult and booked as the
youngest inmate in recollection at the adult jail in Clayton, which held him
apart from other inmates.

He now goes to the Department of Corrections for placement in the prison system.

Burnett's mother and other relatives had written to the judge, urging leniency.
But Wiesman passed up an opportunity to send Burnett to a juvenile treatment
center, from which he might have been able to win freedom as early as age 17.

Instead, the judge ordered consecutive sentences of 20 years each for
kidnapping and assault and 10 years each for sodomy and attempted rape. Burnett
pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 10. He will be eligible for parole after
serving 51 years. Presuming credit for time already served, that would be in
2056, when he is 64.

Burnett made no statement Thursday and showed no emotion; his family appeared
stunned.

He abducted, beat and sexually assaulted the girl and left her semiconscious
near railroad tracks not far from her home.

The victim's family was frantic and a massive search was organized that night —
"the worst night of all our lives," her mother wrote Wiesman. "She was only 6
years old and in the first grade. The thought that she could have been taken
from me at such an early age sickens me. The image of my child in the hospital
terrorizes me daily."

A police officer found her the next morning. She had suffered a skull fracture,
a lacerated liver and heavy bruises, and half an ear had been torn off.

She told police she couldn't walk, so she crawled through a hole in a fence
near the tracks but could go no further. As night descended, she said, she
tried to cover herself with leaves. From her hospital bed, the girl identified
Burnett from a school picture.

The court file contains letters seeking leniency for Burnett, from his mother,
brother, sister, aunt, four cousins and a minister.

His mother noted that he already has been locked up for two years, is still
young and was "very remorseful."

That remorse wasn't apparent to Brent Brueck, a senior program administrator
for the Missouri Division of Youth Services. He interviewed Burnett recently to
see if he would be eligible for a dual jurisdiction juvenile program of his
agency and the Department of Corrections, in Montgomery City, Mo.

Brueck testified that Burnett told him the incident was caused by the girl,
because she had thrown a rock at him. Also, Burnett denied trying to rape her.
Brueck confirmed under questioning by prosecutor Rob Livergood that there was
no evidence in any of the records or police reports to back up Burnett's claims.

Brueck also said the teens he interviews often seek to minimize their crimes,
and that Burnett would be a candidate for the program.

Defense attorney Nellie Ribaudo argued for the joint program as a place where
Burnett could get counseling, sex offender treatment and education unavailable
in prison.

Had Burnett been put there, he would have been entitled by law to hearings upon
turning 17 and 21, and potentially eligible for probation at the discretion of
a judge after either hearing.

But Wiesman decided the program was inappropriate "in light of the severity of
the assault and what appears to be a threat to the community."

The victim's family said they have moved to another state.

Her mother said in her letter to the judge that the victim "still has teenage
years to go through and I am going to keep her in therapy as long as it takes.
Only time will tell the true magnitude of the damage he has caused her."

Earlier this year, Wiesman dismissed from the case misdemeanor counts of sexual
misconduct and assault. In June 2005, Burnett had allegedly offered an
11-year-old girl $50 for sex, and threw her brother to the ground when she
refused and he intervened.

blhotka@post-dispatch.com | 314-615-3283