Saturday, August 30, 2014

Melvern man gets life in child sex case

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/16/2014

LYNDON — “You took away my innocence,” a young rape victim said in a statement read on her behalf Monday morning in Osage County District Court.

The statement was directed at Ronald L. Hartpence Jr. as the 38-year-old Melvern man, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat in silence at the defense table. Judge Phillip M. Fromme, chief judge of the Fourth Judicial District, had found Hartpence guilty of one count of rape April 21 after Hartpence entered a no contest plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors that other charges against him would be dropped in the child sexual abuse case that involved two sisters under age 14.

LYNDON — “You took away my innocence,” a young rape victim said in a statement read on her behalf Monday morning in Osage County District Court.

The statement was directed at Ronald L. Hartpence Jr. as the 38-year-old Melvern man, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat in silence at the defense table. Judge Phillip M. Fromme, chief judge of the Fourth Judicial District, had found Hartpence guilty of one count of rape April 21 after Hartpence entered a no contest plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors that other charges against him would be dropped in the child sexual abuse case that involved two sisters under age 14.

Because the rape victim was younger than 14, Fromme sentenced Hartpence Monday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years — in accordance with state sentencing guidelines under Jessica’s Law. Hartpence also is required to register as a sex offender for life.

The rape victim’s statement — which was read by a second party on the girl’s behalf — alluded to her sister and other girls who might have fallen victim to Hartpence’s sexual abuse. In the statement, the victim said she had been afraid of Hartpence but was not scared of him any longer. The victim went on to say in the statement she was glad Hartpence was going to jail for life and hoped she would never see him again.

“What you did to us was really bad and wrong,” the statement said.

The victim’s father, pausing to collect himself, urged Hartpence to disclose all of his crimes to the court so that other girls could receive the treatment they needed and to repent for his sins. He admonished Hartpence for never apologizing for his actions.

“As a dad, there is so much wrong here I don’t know what to say,” the victim’s father said. “I’m trying to build my daughter back up for what was stolen from her.”

Brandon Jones, Osage County prosecutor, asked Judge Fromme to sentence Hartpence to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years and to require him to register as a sex offender for life.

Before issuing the sentence, the judge asked Hartpence if he wanted to make a statement to the court while the victim and her family were present in the court room.

“I just want to tell everybody that I apologize for all I have done,” Hartpence said.

A Jan. 8 complaint filed by prosecutor Jones alleged on two separate occasions between Sept. 1, 2011, and Nov. 27, 2013, Hartpence knowingly had unlawful sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14. He faced two counts of rape and one count of aggravated indecent liberties in connection with the incidents.

More specifically, Jones said, if the case went to trial, the prosecution would present evidence that Hartpence had sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14 sometime during the week before Thanksgiving in November 2013 in Hartpence’s home in the Melvern area.

As part of the plea agreement worked out between prosecutor Jones and James Campbell, Hartpence’s defense attorney, the other rape count and the count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child would be dropped.

When asked by Fromme about the range of dates from Sept. 1, 2011, to Nov. 27, 2013, Jones said other incidents of sexual assault against the victim were reported to have occurred during that time. Those incidents were alleged to have taken place in Osage and Coffey counties.

Douglas Witteman, Coffey County attorney, who sat at the prosecution table with Jones in court April 21, told the chief judge that as another stipulation of the plea agreement, the Coffey County prosecutor would not file charges against Hartpence in Coffey County in connection with those incidents. Fromme told Hartpence if sexual assaults against other victims came to light in the future, Hartpence still could be charged in connection with those crimes.

“This plea agreement only applies to this case,” Fromme said April 21 when he accepted Hartpence’s no contest plea to the single count of rape.

The Osage County Attorney’s Office’s original complaint also charged Hartpence with sexually abusing the victim’s younger sister on at least one occasion. Jones said Monday the charge related to the younger sister was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

“There also have been allegations that there might have been other victims at other times in the past, but those were not related to this case,” Jones said.

After Hartpence’s brief statement Monday, Fromme sentenced Hartpence and remanded him over to the custody of the Osage County Jail to await transport to a Kansas Department of Corrections-run state prison.

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