TUSCOLA – A Villa Grove teen convicted of sexually molesting two young girls was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison.
Judge Frank Lincoln imposed the sentence on Brett Gaston, 17, who pleaded guilty in January to molesting sisters between November 2003 and June 2004. The girls, ages 6 and 4 at the time, were clients in his mother's home day care in Villa Grove.
Under truth-in-sentencing legislation, Gaston will have to serve 85 percent or about 14 years of the sentence. He's already served almost two years.
Gaston's sentencing hearing began earlier this month. Douglas County State's Attorney Kevin Nolan elicited testimony, designed to lengthen Gaston's sentence, from five other children in the day care who said they felt intimidated by the youth. Some of them were hit by him. While none of them made reference to sexual molestation, Nolan argued that Gaston himself admitted to state police investigators that he molested as many as a half dozen children.
Lincoln noted that there was evidence that Gaston's mother, Sheryl Gaston, was aware of improper physical contact between her son and some of the children.
"This should have raised red flags that supervision of the defendant was necessary. If that close supervision had been exercised, the harm to these children may have been avoided and the defendant would not be in this situation today," Lincoln said.
Nolan argued for a 20-year sentence, the cap to which he agreed when Gaston pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Gaston could have been sentenced to as many as 60 years – six to 30 years on each count. Because the acts were separate, the sentences have to be served one after the other.
Gaston's attorney, Public Defender Jim Lee, argued for a term closer to the minimum of 12 years, noting his client's diminished intellectual capacity. Gaston, who was arrested in June 2004, was unfit to stand trial for more than a year. He also had no prior criminal convictions, Lee argued.
Lincoln's sentence was for 8 years on each count.