Champaign man gets 30 years for rape attempt

URBANA — A diagnosed schizophrenic man likely born addicted to crack cocaine was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison for trying to rape a University of Illinois student as she was passed out from being drunk.

Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis called Paul D. Shaw, 29, a sexual predator from whom the public needed protection.

"People like Mr. Shaw hang around the campus area because the victims are plentiful and easily available. He found one ... and he attacked her," the judge said.

Acknowledging Shaw's serious mental health problems, the judge read into the record the opinion of Champaign psychiatrist Albert Lo that Shaw, a multiple-convicted felon, was fit to stand trial and cooperate with his lawyer in spite of his mental issues.

Lo opined that even though Shaw was "suspicious, irritable and distrusting" of the legal system, he was still able to understand the proceedings against him and cooperate with his court-appointed attorney, Assistant Public Defender George Vargas.

A Champaign County jury convicted Shaw, who last lived at the TIMES Center in Champaign, in November of a single count of attempted criminal sexual assault but acquitted him of a more serious charge of criminal sexual assault.

The charges stemmed from a March 25, 2012, incident involving a highly intoxicated teenage girl who told the jury she wasn't sure if she was dreaming or it was real when she was awakened by a man taking her pants off and molesting her.

The girl testified she was staying at the apartment of a friend in the 400 block of East Green Street in Champaign that night and that she passed out after a party there. She woke to find a man performing various sex acts on her, fought him off, then passed out after the attack was over.

She reported it several hours later.

Seminal fluid found in her underwear linked Shaw to the crime six months later when he was serving a prison sentence for theft. The state police DNA database identified the DNA in the semen as Shaw's. After confirmatory tests were done, he was charged in February 2013 with criminal sexual assault and attempted criminal sexual assault.

To aggravate his sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar presented evidence from Urbana police Officer Doug Pipkins, who investigated a report of Shaw exposing himself to an employee of the Crisis Nursery of Champaign County on Hill Street on Jan. 21, 2012. Although Shaw was not identified at the time of the crime, he was linked to it later after his April 24, 2012, arrest for exposing himself to women who were working at two different businesses in Lincoln Square in Urbana.

The April 2012 exposure was used as grounds by the state's attorney's office to revoke the probation that Shaw had been given for a theft conviction he received in 2011 for stealing air conditioners from a Champaign business. In June 2012, Difanis resentenced Shaw to seven years in prison.

And on Friday, when Difanis sentenced him to another 30 years, the judge decreed that the sentences should be served consecutively.

Lozar had argued for a 60-year sentence, saying that Shaw's prior convictions for two Class 2 or greater felonies made him eligible for Class X sentencing and that a prior Class X conviction for armed robbery made him eligible for an extended term of up to 60 years.

Shaw was adjudicated a delinquent minor for criminal trespass to vehicle, possession of cannabis, robbery and aggravated battery. As an adult, he was convicted of armed robbery, aggravated unlawful restraint, robbery, manufacture of a controlled substance, criminal trespass, criminal damage to property, aggravated assault and theft. His criminal convictions started in 1999 when he was 15.

"It is difficult to overstate the reprehensible nature of the actions perpetrated on the victim," Lozar argued, calling Shaw's juvenile record to be "of great concern."

"What he does while he's out and about is to expose himself and let himself in places he shouldn't be," said Lozar.

Although the apartment complex was supposed to be locked, Shaw was able to get inside the Green Street building where the woman was assaulted. The fourth-floor apartment she was in had been left unlocked.

Vargas called Shaw's case "very sad because in a way he's a victim himself."

"His mom was a schizophrenic drug user who had crack babies. He grew up as a ward of the state," said Vargas, noting Shaw's "serious mental health issues" cited by Lo. He urged the judge to impose a lower sentence.

Difanis said he disagreed with Lozar's interpretation of the law that allowed for an extended term of up to 60 years and believed that 30 years was the maximum he could impose.

Shaw will have to serve at least half of the 30-year sentence.

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