URBANA — A Champaign man who denied touching an elderly woman with dementia at a Champaign care facility is headed to prison for as many as 60 years following a jury finding that he molested her.
A Champaign County jury took three hours to reject Dontrell Netter's assertions that he never crossed the threshhold of the 90-year-old woman's room at Bickford Cottage, 1002 S. Staley Road, in July 2015.
The jury convicted Netter, 24, whose last known local address was in the 2300 block of Southmoor Drive, of aggravated criminal sexual assault, attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault and conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual assault.
Judge Tom Difanis revoked Netter's bond and set sentencing for Jan. 18.
The charges stemmed from a twisted scheme involving former Bickford employee Channing Butler of Champaign, now serving a 14-year prison sentence for his role in the abuse.
Channing, 28, was a certified nurse assistant who invited Netter and other men to the facility to engage in sex acts with elderly women unable to defend themselves. Butler took photos of the activity.
Butler and two other men pleaded guilty to various charges; all are serving prison sentences.
Testifying for the state Tuesday, Butler changed the story that he gave to police in December 2015 when the acts came to light.
Butler testified that he had told Champaign police detective Andre Davis in 2015 that he got Netter to come to Bickford by posing as a woman on Facebook who was interested in having sex with Netter. He also told Davis that he and Netter had sex there before Netter entered the woman's room and molested her.
But Butler also told the jury that he had lied to Davis and that Netter actually turned down his request to engage with the woman as Butler had suggested.
Jurors saw a photo recovered from Butler's phone showing the woman engaged in a sex act with a man. Butler told the jury that he took the photo and that Netter was present in the room but he wasn't certain if Netter was the man committing the act. A man's face is not visible in the picture.
In closing arguments, Assistant State's Attorney Matt Banach called Butler "a sick man" who "did a despicable thing."
He argued that when Butler was caught in December 2015 and implicated Netter in the twisted scheme, he had no reason to embellish Netter's role or make up acts that Netter had not actually engaged in.
The prosecutor also called Netter's testimony in his own defense unreasonable.
Netter told the jury that he went to Bickford on a night in July 2015 after exchanging messages via Facebook with a person named Taylor that he thought was a woman.
That person, who turned out to be Butler, told Netter that he could have "sex with Taylor or a woman the age of like 50."
Netter said he followed Taylor's directions to get to Bickford and despite a large sign in front identifying it as an assisted living and memory care facility, he thought he was going to a person's home.
Even after seeing handicapped parking spaces and a double set of doors, Netter said he entered the facilty when Butler came to the door and waved him in. Netter said he had never seen Butler before.
"My first words were: 'Where's the girl?' It felt like a set-up. He (Butler) was hesitant then told me, 'I'm who you been talking to.' Then I said, 'Where is the other woman?' I was feeling like I got tricked but I held on to some hope there was some woman there. It was night and I was in the mood," said Netter.
Netter said Butler took him to the woman's room, telling him as they arrived at her door, 'I have a woman in this room. She's old. I want you to go have sex with her.' "
But Netter said when he saw the elderly woman seated in a chair, he told Butler he was "crazy" and headed for the exit. He said Butler tried to persuade him to carry it out but he testified he "never got close to that woman. I never crossed the threshhold."
Netter testified that Butler had to punch in a code in order for him to go out the door and that he went to his car, smoked a cigarette and considered calling police.
He said he did not do that because he was on parole, was planning to leave the area soon anyway, and thought he could just put the incident behind him. He also said he didn't believe that either he or Butler had committed any crime.
Also testifying in Netter's behalf was his grandmother, who said she buys her grandson's clothing. She testified that she did not recognize the clothing in the photo of the man engaged in the sex act with the elderly woman as anything she knew her grandson to wear.
Netter's attorney, Mike McClellan, argued that the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Netter was involved in anything criminal inside Bickford Cottage. He maintained that his client had never met Butler before that night.
He also urged the jury to believe what Butler said under oath on the stand and not what he told Davis in December 2015 about Netter's participation.