Admitted molester sentenced to 18 years

Admitted molester sentenced to 18 years

URBANA — A former Urbana man who admitted both recently and more than 20 years ago that he sexually molested a child decades ago was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison.

Because Richard Mason, 56, of Downs committed aggravated criminal sexual assault in the late 1980s when the penalties were less serious, he will have to serve only 50 percent of that sentence.

"Child molesters come in all shapes and sizes. They are fathers, lawyers, doctors, ministers. They hide it well. The offense is committed quietly. That's what happened in this case," Judge Tom Difanis said.

The criminal charges against Mason were filed in July 2015 alleging sexual misconduct that occurred with a child in his care around 1987.

Although the allegations were the subject of a Champaign County juvenile court proceeding, Mason was never criminally prosecuted, something that the victim sought to rectify as an adult when she went to police two years ago on the advice of a counselor.

Difanis noted that today the penalties are more draconian — six to 60 years in prison at 85 percent time for the same offense — and that children are schooled more thoroughly to speak up about adult touches that make them uncomfortable and adults are trained to listen to them.

"Despite how far we've come, it is still a difficult problem that occurs over and over again," said the veteran jurist, calling Mason's conduct "a dark and serious deed."

In January, after a bench trial, Difanis found Mason guilty of molesting the girl, now a 32-year-old woman, for a period of years beginning when the girl was about 3 years old. She was about 9 at the time she shared what was happening with a friend and the allegations made their way to a school teacher.

The Department of Children and Family Services was notified and a case was initiated in juvenile abuse and neglect court in 1994 that continued for two years. Mason got counseling.

Urbana police officer Dave Smysor testified at an earlier hearing before Difanis that he could find no record that Urbana police had ever investigated the allegations in 1994.

Even if a police investigation had resulted in criminal charges then, former Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dobson, who had significant experience prosecuting child molesters and working with abused children, testified that the victim was not able to testify in a criminal prosecution.

"(She) was in very bad shape emotionally and pyschologically. She didn't want to meet with the guardian ad litem and was very reluctant to disclose even the smallest detail to a DCFS investigator. She couldn't be counted on to testify in criminal court," Dobson testifed in July.

At Wednesday's sentencing, the woman read aloud for Difanis a statement detailing how Mason manipulated her and persuaded others not to believe her. She described feeling "completely alone."

As a teen, she said, she attempted suicide, drank alcohol to excess, smoked cannabis and dropped out of high school, all effects of being molested.

"I am a prisoner of a life sentence of pain and heartache because of his choices," she said.

Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar sought a 30-year sentence for Mason, who he said engaged in multiple acts of molestation with the child when he was alone with her.

"We can't leave it open ... that if you offend and keep it quiet, it will go easier on you," he said, noting that even the maximum sentence is really only 15 years behind bars.

But Mason's attorney, Steve Beckett of Urbana, argued for the minimum sentence, saying that Mason had no other criminal convictions in his entire life.

He said the criminal justice system stands for rehabilitation and deterrence, not just the retribution desired by the victim.

"Is it really not serious to send him to prison for six years? He has lived with it his entire life," said Beckett, saying the behavior stopped when the abuse and neglect case started in 1994.

Mason told the judge the victim was "entitled to be healed."

"Everything she claimed I should feel: pain, suffering, sorrow, remorse, I have felt since the day I stopped (hurting her)," he said, "I want her to be happy, grow. I want her to have some peace."

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