URBANA — A Thomasboro man will spend the rest of his life in prison for repeatedly sexually molesting three young boys who were in his care.
Seven women and five men who had heard several days worth of lurid and painful testimony about how Lyn Niemann had his way with the youths took a little more than two hours Friday to convict him of eight counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd set sentencing for May 16 but she has no discretion in this case. The law says if there are at least two victims, the defendant must be sentenced to natural life without possibility of parole.
Neimann showed no reaction to the guilty verdicts.
The various counts alleged different ways the 38-year-old was accused of abusing the boys, who a prosecutor said testified with “chilling candor” about what happened to them. Two of the boys were the children of his fiance while the third was a close family friend.
Niemann’s attorney argued the state had not quite put all the pieces of the puzzle together and reminded jurors that Niemann was not required to prove his innocence.
Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Bennett said Niemann expertly masked the abusive acts he committed with the boys in private by supplying them with public advantages like fishing, camping trips, riding dirt bikes, playing video games and shooting guns.
“It was part of his plan when he’s executing his playbook,” Bennett said.
He noted Niemann would set the boys up with punishments like chores or writing hundreds of rote sentences only so that he could offer them a “trade-off” to get out of the punishment. The trade-off, Bennett said, was submitting to his sexual advances.
The prosecutor argued the boys didn’t tell anyone sooner because the acts were embarrassing to talk about, they believed their mother knew what was happening and wasn’t stopping it, and they were afraid of Niemann.
Because of an ongoing bad relationship between their mother and father, their periodic visits to their father were often tumultuous. The father testified his ex-wife called the Department of Children and Family Services multiple times to report him for allegedly hurting the boys but DCFS never found the complaints credible.
Bennett argued that those multiple unfounded calls to police and DCFS were the ex-wife’s way of keeping the attention off Niemann.
Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones implied in her argument that the boys were making up the abuse. She noted that initially, they all balked at telling authorities what had happened to them. She also said when they were testifying, they showed emotion when describing the fun things Niemann did with them but not while describing the abuse.
“Is it trauma or is it a story?” she asked.
Addressing the accusation that Niemann left a sex toy and lubricant in the dresser drawer of the older boy for a birthday present, Miller suggested the boy could have taken it from the inventory of more than two dozen sex toys found in Niemann’s bedroom.
“Kids are snoopy. He could have taken that toy and put it in his own drawer,” she said.
She also tried to suggest that the ex-husband may have planted in his sons’ minds the suggestion that Niemann abused them as a way to end the ongoing strife over visitation between him and his ex-wife.
But Bennett scoffed at that suggestion or any implication that the boys made up the allegations.
He noted that the father couldn’t even remember his age when he testified and he was hardly “the mastermind of a conspiracy.”
As for the boys, he said the three have been consistent in what they have told adults for the last year since the allegations came to light. Niemann was arrested March 27, 2013, and has been jailed since.
“It’s staggering how similar their experiences are,” Bennett said.
“You’ve heard them describe sex toys in a way a boy would describe an action figure,” Bennett said, arguing that children that age would not likely have such knowledge.
Bennett said one of the boys talked about how, as he was being abused, he would focus on a lizard in a terrarium near the bed as opposed to the wall-mounted flat screen television that was tuned to cartoons or video games. Bennett said that lent credibility to the boy’s testimony because the lizard would have been at his eye level as he lay on the bed while the television was high on the wall.
“That is not a detail you would think about if you were making it up,” Bennett said.
Niemann still faces one more criminal count, which Bennett will likely dismiss at the time of sentencing.
One count of sexual conduct with an animal was severed from the other counts heard this week at the request of Niemann’s attorney.
Miller-Jones argued to Ladd before trial that if the jurors heard testimony alleging that Niemann forced one of the boys to submit to a sex act with a dog while another watched, that they would be unable to focus on the other counts. Ladd agreed.
That count is a Class 3 felony with lesser penalties than the other counts.