URBANA — A Champaign County jury acquitted a Pesotum man of charges that he sexually molested a teenage girl.
After hearing from eight witnesses over two days and deliberating for four hours Wednesday, the jury found Myles Sorensen, 29, not guilty of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The charges stemmed from conduct alleged to have occurred with a then-14-year-old girl early on Aug. 4, 2018, at Sorensen’s family’s home.
Testimony before Judge Randy Rosenbaum was that the girl’s family and Sorensen’s family were close and that she was staying at the Sorensen home that weekend while her mother was away.
The girl, now 16, testified that prior to that weekend, she communicated with Sorensen on social media, including Snapchat, and that his messages took on a sexual tone. She said he told her that she was sexy, that he wanted her to be his secret girlfriend and that she should not tell anyone. She also said he sent her videos of himself on Snapchat.
Despite not wanting to go to the Sorensen home that weekend, the girl said she went because her mom wanted to go out of town.
On the night of Aug. 3, she, Sorensen and his two siblings went to a movie and out to eat together afterward. She said he touched her private area over her clothing while in the theater and again in the restaurant while his siblings were using the restroom.
She also testified that once back at their home, Sorensen invited his sister and her to his bedroom to watch a movie, which they did. She said when his sister went to bed about 1:30 a.m., she got up to leave too, but “he grabbed my arm and told me to stay.”
She said he then touched her sex organ outside her pants and put his mouth on her breast. The girl said they heard a noise and Sorensen’s mother came into his room, where he was pretending to sleep. The mother told her to return to the room where she was supposed to sleep.
On the following Monday, Sorensen’s mother told the girl’s mother that she had found the two in the bedroom.
That revelation led to two phone conversations between the Sorensens and the girl’s mother. The girl’s mother testified that Sorensen admitted during the calls that he touched her daughter, but his parents testified they did not hear that.
It was after those conversations that the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and Sorensen was charged.
The girl said she did not immediately tell either of her parents exactly what happened. When she did, she said they made her delete her social-media apps and eventually took her cellphone away. She denied making up the alleged abuse to save herself from getting in trouble.
Sorensen’s parents and siblings, called by defense attorney Baku Patel, all testified they had not seen any unusual activity between Sorensen and the girl.
On cross-examination by Patel, the girl admitted that she continued to stay at the home the day after the alleged abuse and did not tell any adult about what happened.
“I was scared of him and didn’t want to rock the boat with the family relationships,” she said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. J.R. Meeker testified he found nothing related to Sorensen in a forensic search of the girl’s phone. Messages on Snapchat, he said, are immediately deleted after being read unless specifically saved.
In closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink urged jurors to believe the girl, reiterating that she was 14 and Sorensen was 26 when it happened.
That she was afraid of Sorensen and didn’t immediately call either of her parents for help when the alleged abuse occurred was not unusual, Alferink argued. Even if she had wanted to engage in some kind of activity with him, he would still be guilty, she said.
“These are not two consenting adults. He was 26. He knew better,” Alferink said.
Patel countered that Sorensen did not have to prove anything because the burden is on the state.
He cited a lack of evidence to corroborate the girl’s allegations, including no phone evidence to back up her claims of sexually charged texts.
“If you have reasonable doubt, hold on to it,” he said.